by The KCM Crew on September 21, 2011

Monday’s blog post generated many questions as to whether modifications would have a major impact on preventing an increase in future foreclosures. Though modifications are still being done, the onus by the government and the banks has currently shifted to two other initiatives to help the housing recovery:

1. Preventing future delinquencies (people falling behind on their payments)

2. Clearing the backlog of foreclosures already owned by the banks (REOs). 

As proof of this, we just need to look at the speech by Edward J. DeMarco, the Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), to the American Mortgage Conference.

The text of the speech was released earlier this week . Mr. DeMarco explains:

“At the end of the Bush Administration and in the early days of the Obama Administration, attention focused on loan modifications as a way of stabilizing troubled borrowers’ monthly payments and aiding them in avoiding foreclosure. These efforts resulted in the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. For much of 2009, the key priority was developing and then implementing HAMP; in late 2009 and into 2010, the challenge became making HAMP more operationally effective and converting borrowers from trial modifications to permanent modifications.”

DeMarco then talks about what initiatives the agency is now concentrating on:

“Current priorities are focused on issues at the two ends of the foreclosure process – at one end, we are enhancing efforts to keep current borrowers from going delinquent in the first place and at the other end, we are now focusing on the challenges of disposing of the real estate owned that is left after a foreclosure.” 

Preventing New Delinquencies 

Trying to prevent more American families from falling delinquent on their mortgage payments is a great first step to a recovery in the housing sector. DeMarco claims:

“FHFA is carefully reviewing the mechanics of the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) program to identify possible enhancements that would reduce barriers for borrowers already otherwise eligible to refinance using HARP. If there are frictions associated with the origination of HARP loans that can be eased while still achieving the program’s intent of assisting borrowers …we will seek to do so.”

Clearing Existing Foreclosures

We must also clear the inventories of foreclosures currently held by the banks. This is seen by FHFA as a crucial component to any plan to help the real estate market recover.

“The second area I would like to briefly discuss is the disposition of Real Estate Owned or REO. In August, FHFA, Treasury, and HUD issued a Request for Information (RFI) on ways to dispose of REO properties. While the Enterprises have considered various approaches to disposing of REO over time, the RFI represents an opportunity to consider new approaches, including possible approaches that include both the Enterprises and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). By taking this collaborative approach, the three agencies seek ways to improve returns to taxpayers and bring greater stability to local housing markets. We have received nearly 4,000 submissions in response to the RFI. We are encouraged by the strong response and interest in this effort. Obviously it will take a little time to review so many responses but we are already hard at work doing so.

To be clear, this effort is not intended to develop a single, national program for REO disposition. Rather, we are most interested in proposals tailored to the needs and economic conditions of local communities.” 

Bottom Line

To help the market, the two major initiatives FHFA is pursuing are preventing new delinquencies and selling off the backlog of foreclosures that currently exists. Modifications, at best, now appear to be on the back burner.