HAMP Is Not Enough

The federal government's Home Affordable Modification Program has a lot of mass appeal. But banks have been slow to act and HAMP was never intended to be the sole solution to the foreclosure crisis. HAMP needs backup.

Consider a typical homeowner: a two-parent family with two children. One of the parents is recently unemployed and the family can’t afford their mortgage on the one remaining income, but their credit record is decent, and with a lower monthly payment, they could manage. Today they’re paying on time by using savings, but those funds are running out. What are the chances that this family can get a mortgage modification that will enable them to keep their home?

On the face of it, this family sounds like a good candidate for a loan modification under the federal government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). The family’s mortgage is current, and their credit is good, but they have had a significant change in circumstances, and, more than anything, the family desperately wants to stay in their home. However, even though federal assistance is targeted to families just like them, their ability to keep their home will depend on the competence and commitment of their loan servicing company, their ability to get legal help, and their persistence in a process that is often onerous and frustrating.

The foreclosure crisis is too widespread and the stakes too high to allow this much uncertainty. To ensure that preventable foreclosures are, in fact, prevented, HAMP and policies outside of HAMP need to be changed to increase transparency and accountability of servicers and lenders.

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