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Panel Cites Problems in Mortgage Modification Program

Today, a report from the Congressional Oversight Panel faults the Treasury Department’s efforts to stem the tide of foreclosures:

Treasury’s response continues to lag well behind the pace of the crisis. As of February 2010, only 168,708 homeowners have received final, five-year loan modifications — a small fraction of the 6 million borrowers who are presently 60-plus days delinquent on their loans. For every borrower who avoided foreclosure through HAMP last year, another 10 families lost their homes.

The Home Affordable Modification Program, the Obama administration’s flagship effort to help borrowers reduce their monthly mortgage payments and stop the foreclosure crisis, is not going well, the report concludes. Among the more distressing findings, flagged by the Huffington Post’s Shahien Nasiripour, is that homeowners who go through modifications often end up deeper underwater — owing more than their house is worth — than before modification. (The more underwater the homeowner, the more likely he or she is to walk away.) All in all, three-quarters of the program’s participants owe more than their house is worth.

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In a separate report, the Treasury Department said that the number of homeowners who modified via HAMP but then still later defaulted doubled in March to 2,879. It also said that HAMP initiated just 57,000 new trial modifications in March, 15,000 fewer than in February, due to “servicers increasingly requiring upfront documentation from homeowners to comply with pending HAMP policy requirements.”

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