Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Borrowers Desperate For Help

Thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure are turning to the Bush Administration’s foreclosure relief plan for help. HOPE NOW Alliance, a coalition of lenders and nonprofits which plays a central role in the plan, has noticed a significant increase in calls since the campaign was officially announced in the media. In each of the past two quarters, the number of calls has doubled and these days staffers have to deal with up to 3,000 calls a day, up from 100 calls per day in June 2006. The demand is so high that the foundation has tripled its staff, but hiring more counselors is hard, because HOPE NOW cannot offer competitive remuneration. Despite all the blasting the plan received in the media, desperate borrowers are calling by the thousands, and why shouldn’t they: if they get some mortgage relief – perfect, if not – they have nothing to lose by asking for help.

Fannie Mae said that it will reimburse mortgage servicing companies which refer delinquent borrowers to the HOPE counseling hotline, adding to demand for the service. The HOPE NOW toll-free number is 1-888-995-HOPE. It is available 24 hours a day and provides counseling in multiple languages. Now we’ll all sit and watch how all this unwinds, because it’s the best most of us can do – apart from, probably, writing angry comments about irresponsible borrowers/lenders and about using taxpayers’ money to bail out speculators. Oh, in fact Paulson repeatedly denied the possibility of the latter. However, he did say something about the economy and the housing market, but he wasn’t really optimistic: “there is no single or simple solution that will undo the excesses of the last few years”. Sad but true.

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