WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Government programs to fight the U.S. home foreclosure crisis look increasingly inadequate and should be reworked, expanded and supplemented with new ideas, a congressional watchdog said in a report on Friday.
With a foreclosure filing occurring every 13 seconds, the United States is mired in a housing slump that is destroying billions of dollars in property values and threatening to choke off the economy’s recovery from a stubborn recession.
The foreclosure crisis has moved beyond subprime mortgages into the prime mortgage market, said the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion bailout launched under the Bush administration.
“Rising unemployment, generally flat or even falling home prices, and impending mortgage rate resets threaten to cast millions more out of their homes,” according to the report, which focused on the Treasury Department’s efforts to curb foreclosures.
“The panel urges Treasury to reconsider the scope, scalability and permanence of the programs designed to minimize the economic impact of foreclosures, and consider whether new programs or program enhancements could be adopted,” it said.
The government’s other effort to stem foreclosures, the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, helps homeowners who are current on their mortgages but owe more than their homes are worth, get more affordable loans.
As of September 1, the watchdog report said, HAMP had helped arrange 1,711 permanent mortgage modifications, with an additional 362,348 borrowers in a three-month trial stage. HARP has closed 95,729 mortgage refinancings, it said.