House Republicans have made little secret of their contempt for federal foreclosure prevention, voting to kill off a host of programs under the theory that federal efforts to keep people in their homes “need to stop.” And one casualty of the GOP’s budget cuts has been foreclosure prevention counseling. As the Kansas City Star noted, the Republicans’ refusal to fund housing counseling has caused counseling centers across the country to shut their doors:
Federal funds aimed at pulling struggling homeowners out of the foreclosure crisis have dried up, a victim of Washington’s budget battles. Nonprofit agencies around the nation are closing offices, laying off counselors and referring desperate homeowners elsewhere.
Cutbacks are hitting even as the pace of foreclosure activity has begun to grow again after paperwork and processing problems had slowed lenders down over the past year.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has been lobbying the Republican House to start funding counseling again, to no avail. This resistance comes despite a study by the Urban Institute finding that homeowners who use foreclosure counseling avoid foreclosure “more frequently and avoided a return to default more often than their unaided counterparts.” Foreclosures hit a seven-month high in November, as banks restarted their foreclosure processes after temporarily halting them in the wake of the robo-signing scandal.
The Obama administration’s foreclosure prevention programs have left a lot to be desired, as housing continues to be a drag on the economy. Instead of engaging with the problem, Republicans have chosen to slash what few funds remain to help people on the ground, needlessly pushing more homeowners into foreclosure.