In this year’s Influential Women special section, we talk with 30 women leaders helping to shape the housing sector. These are decision-makers who have distinguished themselves as innovators, entrepreneurs and trailblazers.
Please see our full magazine flip book where we delve into why we think it’s important to get to know them. Some are household names. Others may fly under the radar but are influential in their day-to-day work to make this industry strong. Their experience spans a wide spectrum, from housing policy on the steps of Capitol Hill to running large nonprofits. They include lenders, mortgage servicers, housing analysts and technology gurus.
We hope you enjoy reading their stories of success as much as we enjoyed telling them.
Executive Director | Hope Now
To understand just how far the housing industry has come in modifying mortgages, consider that private bank programs simply didn’t exist when the Hope Now alliance of servicers, investors and insurers formed in 2007.
The foreclosure crisis was beginning, and then President George W. Bush and Treasury Department officials gathered top mortgage executives. Tackling the mounting problem would require a unified effort, and those designing a new coalition selected Faith Schwartz to direct it.
Schwartz had been at Freddie Mac for five years. She was brought in to the government-sponsored enterprise to lead an anti-predatory lending task force. Her time there put her in touch with many nonprofits and advocates essential to Hope Now’s network today.
But the scope and causes of the housing meltdown escaped everyone, and one of the top priorities of the new alliance would be to figure out how wide the damage was about to spread.
“As they were trying to understand the crisis more, the industry was starting to deal with higher delinquencies,” Schwartz says. “We all had to march in the same direction.”
The initial response was shaky. It took more than a year before banks collectively modified more than 1 million mortgages in November 2008. Foreclosure filings that year set a record at 3 million, according to RealtyTrac. The road since has been rocky. Documentation problems mounted at the largest servicing shops. Programs needed to be changed, especially the Home Affordable Modification Program. Investigations were launched. Settlements were struck.
Hope Now, however, continued work to turn around the industry. It established the Hope Loan Portal, a piece of technology to be used in many private and public programs going forward.
The five years flew by. As of May, members of the Hope Now coalition had modified roughly 5.5 million mortgages. Adding short sales, the amount of foreclosures avoided now total more than 6 million. — more than the roughly 4 million homes repossessed by the banks.
Jim Davis, government affairs executive vice president with Homeward Residential, said Schwartz successfully balanced homeowners’ needs with realistic processes for lenders and servicers.
“She has helped navigate through the most tumultuous period ever experienced in the housing industry,” Davis said.
John Dalton, president of the Housing Policy Council at the Financial Services Roundtable, said he’s convinced Schwartz’s leadership at Hope Now “has had a positive effect on the housing market.”
Schwartz, for her part, says, “A lot of footwork has been done,” noting that the millions of modifications are significant and meaningful.
Schwartz actually began her career on the origination side of the business. She held executive roles at Option One Mortgage, TMC Mortgage and Dominion Bankshares Mortgage Corp.
Schwartz hinted at possibly leaving Hope Now by the end of the year.
“I was able to straddle my business career with getting into a more public policy effort. It was a new enhanced career to think about issues and not the deadline for purchase mortgages,” Schwartz says, laughing.
As for the coalition she built, it too, will go through change. According to the Hope Now 2013 outlook provided to HousingWire, nearly half of the homeowners attending outreach events do not have proper documentation with them when they arrive. The coalition is planning new efforts to improve messaging and educate borrowers. Outreach will also become a local effort for a coalition long focused on the national problem. It will provide service to smaller markets and continue collecting data on local modification scams.
“You’ll see a transition to one of outreach,” Schwartz says. “Hope Now is focused on the military. It works with the Department of Defense, going onto military bases, more of that kind of outreach, and some larger projects.”
Nonprofits — the Cuyahoga Land Bank, NeighborWorks America, Rebuilding Together, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, PCV|VRM Seeds of Hope and many more local organizations — are investing significant resources to improve America’s most vulnerable housing markets.