Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Principal Reduction in Loan Modifications

Well, it seems there is a bit of hypocrisy coming out of Washington for a little change of pace. President Obama announced his nomination of congressman Mel Watt (D-NC) for director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  Many homeowners around the country were delighted by this selection because Congressman Watt has a history of supporting principal reduction in loan modification programs.
The hope is that he will continue this position during his tenure as head of the FHFA. Current acting director of the FHFA, Edward DeMarco, has refused to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to include principal write-downs in their loan modification arsenals. Demarco argues that the practice not only jeopardizes the American taxpayers, but also rewards poor payment history and sets a bad example. Now Watt could be causing problems in this area himself. During his confirmation hearing in the Senate last week, Watt said that while he would not preemptively refuse to engage in write-downs, he also would not endorse the policy. Instead, he promised to “study carefully how that decision [to not do write-downs] was reached, what it was based on, and then I would build on that new information…and make a responsible decision.”

Not surprisingly, Watt’s apparent reluctance has upset many home owners who believed that he would definitely approve the controversial measure to engage in principal reductions as part of a loan modification program. He has been accused of backtracking and failing his constituents. This is particularly alarming since Watt was a vocal critic of DeMarco’s policies as a congressman. Watt responded that while it was his responsibility to support write-downs as a congressman because he had many underwater borrowers in his district, as director of the FHFA he would have to be “a strong advocate for taxpayers”. Watt is likely treading lightly around this issue because one presidential nominee to replace DeMarco has already been blocked.
As my Mother was known to say, “We will see what we shall see”

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