National Housing Conference Updates State Site

HousingPolicy.org, the National Housing Conference online guide to state and local housing policy options, has expanded with new foreclosure prevention features that enable users to access updated information on how to preserve housing affordability among communities across the country.

The goal, NHC said, is to help reduce the negative effect of the ever-rising tide of defaults and foreclosures, as well as to provide information on how to manage so-called real estate-owned properties and restore abandoned houses which often cause depreciation in their communities.

"State and local governments are taking an increasingly active role in foreclosure prevention," said Jeffrey Lubell, executive director of the NHC research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy.

"While part of the reason is certainly to protect owners and renters from the loss of their home, the reasons extend beyond that. The tools and resources available on HousingPolicy.org provide states and localities with information on how other communities are working to help avoid the often steep costs of foreclosures, prevent losses in homeownership and rental occupancy, and stabilize a malfunctioning mortgage market."

Center for Housing Policy analysts believe the extended information will help communities be more efficient when dealing with the needs of residents at risk of foreclosure.

One successful example of state-level prevention, according to the NHC website, is the Chicago Home Ownership Preservation Initiative, "an early example of a one-stop approach to foreclosure prevention that includes both counseling and research efforts" to prevent foreclosures now, reduce risk in the future, and mitigate the damage. Administered by Neighborhood Housing Services, the initiative prevented over 1,300 foreclosures in its first three years.

While the national debate over best tools to combat foreclosures is heating up, renters living in foreclosed properties are not part of the discourse, even though they suffer the consequences "and also impose substantial costs on municipalities and neighborhoods," NHC said.

Therefore, NHC stresses the importance of "investing public resources to prevent foreclosures" because it makes sense for the financial wellbeing of these municipalities in the long run. "It has additional benefits for neighborhoods which would otherwise be weakened, local property owners whose property values would otherwise be driven down, as well as the financially distressed families."

The website outlines very specific preventive suggestions for various case scenarios.

For example, it highlights the need for foreclosure prevention programs that help screen product risk for homebuyers who chose to get complex adjustable-rate and non-conventional mortgage loans. Among other solutions, NHC suggests using "suitable refinancing products and emergency loans" to increase a family's buying power and make homeownership more affordable. Such refinancing loans with flexible underwriting are proven solutions for families with weak credit profiles, or those whose debt exceeds the current value of their home.

NHC also promotes counseling, as a widely successful remedy for facing rising interest rates and property taxes, and legal assistance as effective strategies in preventing foreclosures, which ultimately also helps renters from being evicted and communities from deteriorating.

The NHC website also explains how foreclosure prevention relates to affordable housing. "While most communities have programs to help renters become homeowners, many communities do not focus enough on keeping existing homeowners in their homes." Government efforts can help both individual borrowers and the community overall, especially by helping families stay in their homes, retain their equity, and prevent widespread losses in low- and moderate-income homeownership, NHC said. Such policies include creating a foreclosure prevention task force, connect homeowners with assistance, help homeowners and renters regain stability after a foreclosure, and prevent foreclosures in the future.

HousingPolicy.org was created to guide decision-makers, visitors of all backgrounds and veteran practitioners to state and local housing policy explanations. It was developed by the Center for Housing Policy, whose stated goal is "to collect and provide examples of proven solutions for expanding the availability of homes" for working families and communities.

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