NeighborWorks Finds Unemployment Drives Most Mortgage Defaults
Of the homeowners receiving foreclosure counseling through the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program, 58% listed unemployment as the main reason for default. NeighborWorks America, a nonprofit created by Congress, administers the NFMC program. Congress has allocated $475m to the program to provide foreclosure counseling to borrowers. The amount of borrowers citing reduced or lost income as the reason for default increased steadily over past year, up from 54% in November 2009, 49% in June 2009, 45% in February 2009, and 41% in October 2008. The increases paralleled the national unemployment rate. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment increased every month from the 6.6% rate in October 2008 until dropping slightly to 10% in November 2009. In April 2010, the latest month of available data, the rate held at 9.9%. Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America, said unemployment numbers aren't expected to drop below 9% in 2010. "Unemployment and reduced income are having a devastating effect on our nation’s homeowners,” Wade said. He called on mortgage servicers and Congress to provide more aid to the unemployed. Congress did pass legislation to reduce mortgage payments for the unemployed, and Bank of America is considering a special program that would offer unemployed borrowers up to nine months of mortgage assistance. As of May 2010, more than 967,000 borrowers received foreclosure counseling from the NFMC program. Write to Jon Prior.