by Bill Kavanagh: North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller has proposed an interesting solution to the seemingly intractable mortgage crisis affecting a vast number of American homeowners. Rather than creating a new program to deal with mortgages currently in foreclosure or underwater, Miller suggests reviving a Depression-era entity, the Home Owner's Loan Corporation (HOLC).
HOLC was originally created in 1933 by the Roosevelt Administration. It's mission was to buy up distressed mortgages from the banks and then restructure them in negotiations with homeowners. HOLC eventually turned a slight profit, according to Miller, by the time its last mortgages were paid off in 1951, but in the first years of its existence, the agency was credited with averting a threatened collapse of the 1930's real estate market and with keeping homeowners in their houses— thereby avoiding mass evictions and suffering across the country.
Current programs, like the Obama Administration's HAMP program, are not doing the job of stabilizing real estate markets and helping homeowners to make loan payments workable on salvageable mortgages. HOLC, on the other hand, has a record of being able to intervene to make terms with homeowners, whether by reducing the principle of a loan in an underwater market, renting a home back to the family living in it on a long-term basis, or devising a payment restructuring as needed.
If the program were revived, homeowners would apply to HOLC, which could pick workable situations to become involved in. The banks would then relinquish the mortgage to HOLC in exchange for a percentage of the full value of it (through eminent domain), thereby restoring some sense of reality to the balance sheets of mortgage holders. Then, negotiations between the homeowner and the agency would be agreed upon. The restructured mortgages would be signed by HOLC and the homeowner, replacing the old mortgage with one that would be more workable and be serviced by HOLC.
I'm not an expert in mortgages, but the outline of the proposal has the appealing aspect of a history of effectiveness, unlike the programs not currently working. I'd like to hear readers' thoughts on it.
Here's a link to an article in the New Republic by Congressman Miller about his proposal.
(Kavanagh cross-posts at Bills Big Diamond.)