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Given that Nevada posted the nation’s highest foreclosure rate in February for a stunning 62nd month in a row, it's well past time for the House Committee on Financial Services to discuss solutions for the state. But that’s exactly what they are doing at a field hearing in Las Vegas Thursday.
Where have these people been for the past 62 months? For a state considered the “epicenter” of the housing crisis since 2006, it seems entirely illogical that it took this long for the committee to convene on behalf of Nevada homeowners and its housing industry.
While the committee has focused on foreclosures before, they have never delved into the Nevada mess, and the solutions previously discussed have been wildly unsuccessful in the state.
As suburban Las Vegas Realtor Keith Lyman, a committee witness, puts it:
…the one size fits all mentality is not working in Nevada. Our marketplace is not like St. Louis, or Dallas or Missoula, Montana, where I am from. Therefore, structuring federal programs, which meet those marketplaces, and not the Las Vegas or Reno marketplaces, is fruitless and frustrates homeowners even more.
Marisol Garibay, communications director for the committee, attributed the long wait to the fact that Joe Heck, R-Nev., just invited the committee to the state to talk about the problem, and of course “[Republicans] have only been in control for 14 months.”
Even if Democrats refused to address Nevada’s problem specifically, 14 months still seems like quite a lot of time — especially given Nevada soared above all other states in foreclosures each month.
Some of the witnesses at the Nevada hearing echo proposals heard nationally, like finding ways for small banks to survive in the shark pit of larger banks, speeding up the foreclosure process and ensuring that credit unions have access to secondary markets.
Other solutions, however, could turn the tide for Nevada specifically. Sue Longston, a business developer at SCE Federal Credit Union, asks committee members to give credit unions “a voice to appeal examinations when practices do not apply uniformly across all 50 states,” and asks that the National Credit Union Administration “consider the impact of Nevada’s economic climate in their pending regulations on loan participations, troubled debt restructures, credit union service organizations, liquidity and derivatives.”
“While [the NCUA's] mission is to examine credit unions as a whole, circumstances are different in the Silver State,” she says. “The survivability of any home-grown financial institution lies solely in the way in which it is forced to comply with regulation. While a regulation might work well for Midwest and southern credit unions, in Nevada it is simply not the case.”
The cries that Nevada’s foreclosure crisis is different should come as no surprise. The state's default notices dropped 89% in February, but were still twice the national average according to RealtyTrac. This after all of the “solutions” the committee has explored for the nation as a whole.
The term "better late than never" probably seems bittersweet to homeowners that have lost their homes and the lenders who have taken major losses in the 62 months the state has been functionally ignored.
The rest of the witness testimony can be read here.