Just-released figures from Treasury and HUD report that the number of homeowners who defaulted on their mortgages, even after securing lower payments through loan modification, nearly doubled in March. Relief efforts are diminishing rather than growing.
The Federal Reserve has ended its $1.25 trillion program to buy mortgage backed securities. The first-time homebuyer tax credit is about to end. Oh, and by the way, Baltimore and Memphis are again in court over the mortgage loan and foreclosure practices of major banks. It’s no wonder families facing foreclosure feel abandoned.
So, it’s not surprising then that city governments, county governments, housing nonprofits, judges, foundations and university researchers are investing so much time and energy on foreclosures. They know that the crisis is not over – 2010 may be just as bad as 2009 – and that continued action can make a difference for many households.
This energy and commitment was on display during a two-day forum on home foreclosures hosted by the National League of Cities last week in Washington. Teams of officials from Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Riverside, St. Louis, and Tampa met together to share success stories, offer recommendations to peers in local government, and suggest policy reforms to the national government.
Briefly summarized, the most important conclusion is that one credible leader makes a difference. In every city with significant progress on foreclosures a mayor, a judge, a county treasurer, a councilmember, or a grass roots neighborhood organizer spoke up and stepped up to define the issue, convene stakeholders, dispel myths, shape decisions, tell the story and scavenge for resources. Moreover, these leaders were concerned not only with the process of solving the problem of the moment. They took action keeping in mind a longer-term vision and plan for what their community could be.
NLC will issue a longer and more complete report on this forum in the near future.