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While Our Heads Are in the AIG Sand … « The Washington Independent

Housing advocates are reminding us that the foreclosure crisis at the root of the economic collapse is also a long ways from ending. And the numbers are startling.

Without government help, 2.4 million homeowners will lose their homes to foreclosure this year, according to the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), an advocacy group.

Every 13 seconds another family receives notice a lender’s foreclosing on their home. That means 6,600 additional foreclosures start every day at a time foreclosure rates already are four times normal levels. A week ago, the number of families forced into foreclosure since January 1 surpassed 500,000.

The Federal Reserve reported earlier this month that home values nationwide fell $870 billion in the last quarter of 2008 alone. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, has estimated that home wealth has tanked more than $6 trillion since the housing crisis began. CRL projects that 73 million families will each lose $6,000 in home value in 2009 just for living in the proximity of foreclosed homes.

Meanwhile, housing legislation that would cut into these numbers remains stalled in the Senate over a provision, unpopular among the banks, that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of primary mortgages to help homeowners keep their homes. Credit Suisse has estimated that the bankruptcy provision alone would prevent 20 percent of all foreclosures — keeping more than 1.6 million families in their homes between now and 2013.

Claiming time restraints, Senate leaders don’t plan to take up the housing bill until after their two-week-long Easter recess, which doesn’t end until April 20. Yet Congress had plenty of time to fritter the last week grappling with efforts to clawback $165 million in bonuses to AIG — hardly a tiny sum, but it’s a rounding error relative to the cumulative wealth being lost by the country’s homeowners while the housing bill idles.

“Continued delay by Congress costs us all,” CRL warned in a statement issued today. “The sooner the Senate acts to get such legislation to the President’s desk the better for all of us.”

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