Foreclosure Crisis Hits Warp Speed: 6 Million Families Face Losing Their Homes in the Next Three Years
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The plan will also pay cash and fees to mortgage companies to encourage them to modify homeowners' loans so their payments are no more than 31 percent of their incomes. But even then, homeowners have to make steep payments, an impossibility for many in a nation boasting 8.1 percent unemployment rate, with rates leaping up to 12 and 14 percent in some major cities.
And the bill does not provide additional resources to the housing counseling agencies that are often the sole thing standing between potential foreclosure victims and success or failure at keeping their homes.
"We have a 30-35 percent success rate keeping people in their homes, which is pretty good," explains Dave Pesch, the Housing Counseling Program Director at St. Martin's Center in Erie, Pa. "But that means 60-65 percent of our clients can't stay."
According to Pesch, for the majority of those people, losing a home to foreclosure means a rapid skid down the ladder they've just spent years attempting to climb up.
Many are forced back into dangerous neighborhoods they'd only recently escaped. Entire families are moving temporarily into shelters that are bursting at the seams and often underequipped to handle children. Or they're leaving town, and jobs, to move in with relatives until they can get back on their feet.
"They may wind up in a shelter or in a relative's spare room for a few months, but then what?" asks Pesch. "Very few of these people are finding anything more than a temporary solution to homelessness, because there simply are no long-term solutions out there."
The help available to foreclosure victims may be too late in another sense as well. The emotional fallout attached to losing your home is tremendous. The humiliation and shame resulting from not being able to put a roof over your family's head runs deep and can't be wiped away by something as flimsy as a rent subsidy.
For children, for parents, for the elderly, the shadow of such an experience can linger a long time, perhaps forever. Many foreclosure victims will come away with a sense that, just like a job, a home is something impermanent, forcing another giant crack into the dissipation of the American Dream.
"Our resources are strained to the breaking point," says Pesch. "This country is in a world of hurt, and we haven't hit bottom yet. People think foreclosures don't affect them if they're still in their homes. But foreclosures affect all of us."