Monday, April 9, 2012

Foreclosure Deal Credits Banks for Routine Efforts

An apartment building being razed in Cleveland.
(photo: Michael Williamson/The Washington
Post/Getty Images)
By Shaila Dewanand, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, The New York Times
08 April 12

n February, JPMorgan Chase donated a home to an Iraq war veteran in Bucoda, Wash., and Bank of America waived the $140,000 debt that a Florida man still owed after the sale of his foreclosed home. Over the last year, Wells Fargo has demolished about a dozen houses in Cleveland.

Banks do things like this - real estate transactions that do nothing to prevent foreclosure - all the time. But beginning this month, they can count such activities as part of their new commitment to help people stay in their homes.

That commitment comes under the landmark $25 billion foreclosure abuse settlement between the government and five major banks announced last month. The settlement promises that of the $25 billion, the banks will give $17 billion "in assistance to borrowers who have the intent and ability to stay in their homes," according to a summary of the settlement. But more than half of that money can be used in ways that will not stop foreclosures, including some activities that are already standard bank practices.

For example, the banks can wipe out more than $2 billion of their obligation by donating or demolishing abandoned houses. Almost $1 billion can be used to help families that have already defaulted move out.

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