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Home Loan Scamming Is Still Going Strong -- and Now You're Paying for It

Welcome to subprime swindle 2.0: the feds' desperate attempt to reinflate the popped housing bubble.

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The financial results so far are not as dire as those created by the subprime frenzy of 2004-2007, but taxpayer losses are mounting on its $562 billion portfolio. According to Mortgage Bankers Association data, more than 1 in 8 FHA loans is now delinquent -- nearly triple the rate on conventional, non-subprime loan portfolios. Another 7.5 percent of recent FHA loans are in "serious delinquency," which means at least three months overdue.

The FHA is almost certainly going to need a taxpayer bailout in the months ahead. The only debate is how much it will cost. By law, FHA must carry a 2 percent reserve (or a 50-to-1 leverage rate), and it is now 3 percent and falling. Some experts see bailout costs from $50 billion to $100 billion or more, depending on how long the recession lasts.

Private profits, public risk. It is a lurid example of the New Capitalism at work, exposing the cannibalistic nature of our society. Even the institutions created to serve the interests of the public have been perverted into instruments of theft.

Business Week, another conservative financial outlet, was actually warning about the FHA scam back in 2008:

For generations, these loans, backed by the Federal Housing Administration, have offered working-class families a legitimate means to purchase their own homes. But now there's a severe danger that aggressive lenders and brokers schooled in the rash ways of the subprime industry will overwhelm the FHA with loans for people unlikely to make their payments. Exacerbating matters, FHA officials seem oblivious to what's happening -- or incapable of stopping it. They're giving mortgage firms licenses to dole out 100 percent-insured loans despite lender records blotted by state sanctions, bankruptcy filings, civil lawsuits and even criminal convictions.

More Bad Debt

As a result, the nation could soon suffer a fresh wave of defaults and foreclosures, with Washington obliged to respond with yet another gargantuan bailout. Inside Mortgage Finance, a research and newsletter firm in Bethesda, Md., estimates that over the next five years, fresh loans backed by the FHA that go sour will cost taxpayers $100 billion or more. That's on top of the $700 billion financial-system rescue Congress has already approved. Gary E. Lacefield, a former federal mortgage investigator who now runs Risk Mitigation Group, a consultancy in Arlington, Texas, predicts: "Within the next 12 to 18 months, there is going to be FHA-insurance Armageddon."


Yet the FHA scam goes on, despite these warnings, for the simple reason that it's the only thing driving an otherwise moribund real estate market. Without these FHA loans, the whole thing would collapse, sooner rather than later. The Business Week piece was published seven months ago. That leaves five months, more or less, before the Armageddon it predicts.

But for now, this racket -- and the couple of trillion dollars pumped into the financial sector -- are showing borderline modest results. On average, pending home sales rose by 6.7 percent in April. That's its highest level since September and the sharpest increase in seven years.

In Victorville, new housing developments are being kept inflated at slightly below 2004 price levels. There has been a slight increase in demand for new homes, too, causing some builders to start raising prices.

A KB Homes development not far from where I live has sold all its lots, raised prices by about 1 percent and even started a new development -- smaller, and with less flash, more in sync with the depressed market -- that will start selling homes sometime this fall. Even Home Depot said its earnings for the month of May were better than expected.

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