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from The Great Debate:

Banks thrive, while homeowners still suffer

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A year ago the federal government and 49 states completed a $25 billion agreement with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers to settle claims of “robo-signing” and unlawful foreclosure practices. President Barack Obama announced the creation of the federal-state mortgage securities working group in his 2012 State of the Union address. The nation seemed on the verge of transforming the way banks treat struggling homeowners ‑ particularly those with “underwater” mortgages, in which a homeowner owes more than the house is worth.

These promises, however, have yet to be fulfilled. The latest interim report on the national mortgage settlement is due out this week, and banks will likely again declare that it offers proof that they are fulfilling their obligations. But the communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis have yet to see any meaningful relief.

Time is running out to ensure that these communities receive their fair share under the settlement. But it is not too late to provide meaningful assistance. The settlement monitors need to demand greater transparency from banks, and they need to see that banks comply with the fair-lending requirements set out in the agreement. They also need to aggressively police the servicing reforms to ensure that all homeowners get a fair opportunity to save their homes.

This settlement was designed to begin a new chapter in the resolution of the nation’s foreclosure crisis. It provided much-needed funding for legal aid, housing counselors and other foreclosure prevention services. It also committed the banks to billions of dollars in consumer relief to help keep struggling families in their homes. Critics recognized that the settlement size was far too small to solve the entire housing crisis, but they hoped it could change the way banks deal with foreclosures.

from Reuters Investigates:

Catch-22 in the housing market

Washington is abuzz with the arguments about foreclosures and whether banks have been steamrollering them through, but many Americans at the other end of the spectrum are having their own problems with mortgage lenders.

One of the couples featured in our special report on how hard it is to get a mortgage were originally turned down because the top right-hand corner of a paystub appeared torn in a photocopy. This despite the fact that the applicants' debt was just 14 percent of their income and they were borrowing just 25 percent of the home's value. 

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