Bill would provide HUD grants for foreclosure mediation
A congressman from Tennessee introduced legislation that would provide grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to states and local governments to provide mediation for homeowners facing foreclosure. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced H.R. 1131, called the Preventing Homeowners from Foreclosure Act of 2011. It appears to be substantially the same bill Cohen introduced last year that did not make it out of committee. The proposed legislation has been referred to the Financial Services Committee. Under the bill, HUD would create a competitive grants program for state and local governments to provide mediation programs to assist homeowners facing foreclosure. It would refer homeowners to a pro-bono attorney or a HUD-certified counselor. It would also require mediation between the homeowner and the lender as soon as practicable after a foreclosure proceeding is filed. If the homeowner doesn't show up for the mediation, the requirement for a mediation conference is deemed to be fulfilled, according to the bill. The program would also establish an outreach program to raise homeowner awareness of the mediation program. Any state or local government that receives help from this grant program would be required to keep a record of each mediation carried out, including the nature of any loan modification. The bill would provide an unspecified amount of money — which would come via an appropriation — for fiscal 2012 through 2016. Passage — even consideration of the bill beyond the committee level — could be an uphill climb for Cohen in a GOP-controlled House that has spent the past few weeks slashing housing-related programs. The House is scheduled to vote on the HAMP Termination Act of 2011 next week, and already has killed a mortgage program that would help the unemployed and the Federal Housing Administration's Short Refi program. The House also voted this week to end the last appropriation for the Neighborhood Stabilization Act, which provides funds to communities to address neighborhoods blighted by the foreclosure crisis with vacant homes. President Obama has promised to veto the bills should they make it through the Senate and to his desk. Cohen, in a statement on his website, said his bill is an effort to help families keep their homes and prevent foreclosures. "Memphis has been hit hard by foreclosures," Cohen said. "Foreclosures evaporate middle-class wealth. My bill would help families keep their homes and avoid the stress and difficulties of foreclosure." Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.