The following joint announcement hit the wires today from five consumer-rights groups: the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, Center for Responsible Lending, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), Consumer Federation of America and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Their issue: a dire need for realistic government and lending-industry response to the worsening mortgage crisis.
Roughly half of the mortgage loans that got modified in 2008 are now back in foreclosure. (And without a doubt some of those loans are to LGBT people.) The government programs that have been launched so far are helping only a fraction of those who need help, according to experts I've talked to. When you call the HUD "help" number, you get a message machine that refers you to local organizations like ACORN. But Acorn, for instance, focuses mainly on low-income people. Homeowners with mortgages that are bigger than "low income" are getting the shaft right now.
Elizabeth Warren, debt expert who heads the Congressional panel on paying out the bailout, predicts that 1 in every 7 homeowners with mortgages will be in foreclosure by the end of 2009. One in seven! Does anybody in Washington smell the coffee burning? Do they hear the distant strains of "Twilight of the Gods"?
Says the group: "We welcome the support of Citigroup, one of the nation's largest mortgage lenders, for responsible and urgently needed legislation that would help stem America's grave home foreclosure crisis by allowing judges to modify mortgages in bankruptcy. It is painfully clear that the continuing, and indeed worsening, foreclosure crisis is perhaps the single largest impediment to economic recovery. It is encouraging to see a major financial industry player and Congress working together to do what is most effective to keep Americans in their homes and to get this economy back on its feet.
"We commend the efforts of Senators Durbin, Schumer and Dodd and Representatives Conyers and Miller, for reaching this agreement with Citigroup. This major breakthrough should alleviate any concerns about including this legislation in the economic recovery package now being developed by the incoming Obama administration and Congress. Now that a compromise is in hand, the time for action is now. We cannot afford to have the mortgage foreclosure crisis go on one day longer than is necessary as a millstone around the neck of our struggling economy."
Well, I think it's just peachy that Congress is finally awake enough to consider this legislation. Based on what I've seen in the last year, most lending-industry leaders are too stupid, greedy and mired in old MO's to think their way out of this one.
But why compel families and individuals to go all the way into the meatgrinder of bankruptcy before a judge modifies the home loan? Why can't more loans be modified before the train wreck happens...not after? Wouldn't that be a more sensible approach...a better, quicker, more humane way to rebuild the economy?
But when did "sensible" ever equal "cents" in American politics?
Maureen Thompson, for National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, (703) 276-3251 or (703) 338-5679 and firstname.lastname@example.org;
Nancy Zirkin, for Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, (202) 263-2880 and Zirkin@civilrights.org;
John Rao, for National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients), (617) 542-8010 , ext. 319 and Jrao@nclc.org;
Kathleen Day, for Center for Responsible Lending, Day (202) 349-1871 (work) or (202) 253-4883 (cell) and Kathleen.email@example.com.