Home Ownership Risk Beyond a Subprime Crisis: The Role of Delinquency Management
35 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2007 Last revised: 25 Apr 2008
Public investment in and promotion of homeownership and the home mortgage market often relies on three justifications to supplement shelter goals: to build household wealth and economic self-sufficiency, to generate positive social-psychological states, and to develop stable neighborhoods and communities. Homeownership and mortgage obligations do not inherently further these objectives, however, and sometimes undermine them. The most visible triggers of the recent surge in subprime delinquency have produced calls for emergency foreclosure avoidance interventions (as well as front-end regulatory fixes). Whatever their merit, I contend that a system of mortgage delinquency management should be an enduring component of housing policy. Furtherance of housing and household policy objectives hinges in part on the conditions under which homeownership is obtained, maintained, leveraged, and - in some situations - exited. Given that high leverage or trigger events such as job loss and medical problems play significant roles in mortgage delinquency independent of loan terms, better origination practices cannot eliminate the need for delinquency management.
One function of this brief essay is to identify an existing rough framework for managing delinquency. Legal scholarship should no longer discuss mortgage enforcement primarily in terms of foreclosure law and instead should include other debtor-creditor laws such as bankruptcy, industry loss mitigation efforts, and third-party interventions such as delinquency housing counseling. In terms of analyzing this framework, it is tempting to focus on its impact on mortgage credit cost and access or on the absolute number of homes temporarily saved, but my proposed analysis is based on whether the system honors and furthers the goals of wealth building, positive social psychological states, and community development. Because those ends are not inexorably linked to ownership generally or owning a particular home, a system of delinquency management that honors these objectives should strive to provide fair, transparent, humane, and predictable strategies for home exit as well as for home retention. Although more empirical research is needed, this essay starts the process of analyzing mortgage delinquency management tools in the proposed fashion.
Keywords: mortgages, bankruptcy, loss mitigation, foreclosure, debt collection
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