State AGs predict uptick in home foreclosures this year

Chris Rizo Jan. 21, 2010, 1:22am

WASHINGTON - The nation's foreclosure crisis is worsening despite federal efforts to help Americans save their homes, a dozen state attorneys general said Wednesday.

The State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group, made of AGs and state banking regulators, is calling for increased efforts to assist struggling homebuyers.

The United States is at "risk of a devastating acceleration of foreclosures unless improvements are made in foreclosure prevention efforts," a report from the group said.

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, co-chairman of the working group, said more foreclosures are predicted for this year than occurred in 2009.

"Programs to help prevent foreclosure are jammed up, while 60 percent of delinquent borrowers aren't getting any help. Servicers must do more," said McKenna, a Republican.

A report issued Wednesday by the State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group found that 60 percent of seriously delinquent borrowers are not involved in loss-mitigation efforts, such as the federal Home Affordable Modification Program.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is part of the group.

On Friday, the federal government said just 7 percent of the homeowners who received trial modifications on their loans through the program had received a permanent reduction through the end of the year.

"Both loss mitigation and foreclosure efforts appear to be backlogged," the report said. "The average time to complete a loan modification for some servicers is more than six months. Many homeowners with trial modifications are not yet qualified to transition to a permanent loan modification."

The report, based on data from 13 mortgage servicing firms, noted that prime loans are increasingly driving the rising delinquency rates.

"The foreclosure problem is broad-based and not isolated to poorly underwritten or exotic loan products," the report said.

To help stem the tide of home foreclosures, the attorneys general suggest that loan servicers suspend foreclosure proceedings on loans involved in the loss-mitigation process. They also said loss-mitigation programs must be "improved to prioritize principal reduction in areas of significant home price declines."

As for the White House's Home Affordable Modification Program, the attorneys general said the program needs to have increased transparency and reduced paperwork to help the most people possible.

The State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group also consists of the attorneys general from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington, and bank regulators for New York, North Carolina, and Maryland, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

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