New Jersey Governor Calls for Sweeping Foreclosure Moratorium

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine on Monday called for a three-to-six-month forclosure moratorium — a temporary pause during which severely delinquent loans cannot enter the foreclosure process — while government officials implement mass loan modification systems. “We need a bottom up approach to modifying mortgages one home at a time,” Corzine said. “It’s going to be be messy, but you got to get on the ground level.” At a meeting Monday in Washington organized by the Office of Thrift Supervision, Corzine urged government officials to put together a system modeled after Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairwoman Sheila Bair’s much-touted modification plan, addressing housing debt-to-income ratios and affordability of monthly payments. Corzine suggested a sweeping modification plan would require $24.4 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, according to a MarketWatch bulletin posted Monday morning. The governor’s statements mean New Jersey has joined other states like Florida, Connecticut and California with their governors either looking at or urging action on a foreclosure moratorium. Massachusetts implemented such a 90-day stay on the foreclosure process earlier this year with telling effects. The number of foreclosures shrank for a few months until the stays began to expire; the state saw a more than 400 percent increase in foreclosure volume months after the moratorium went into effect, suggestion little action was taken on severely delinquent loans during the pause. The difference is Corzine appears to be urging action on a nation-wide blanket moratorium, whereas state governors in the past have largely worked on localized, state moratoria. Freezing foreclosures on that broad a scale — if the results mirror those seen in Massachusetts — might bring about a temporary lull in foreclosures until the stays begin to expire. Loans that could not be modified while in time-out would still flood the system after the life of the stay. Corzine’s office could not be reached for comment before the time this story was published. HousingWire‘s sources have consistently said a foreclosure moratorium alone is not enough to prevent foreclosures. Dustin Hobbs, a spokesman for the California Mortgage Bankers Association, called a blanket moratorium “a Band-Aid approach” that fails to address the situations and circumstances of each borrower and find a suitable solution. “The only way to stop a foreclosure is to modify the loan, and that has to take place between the servicer and the borrower,” Hobbs said in an interview. “So, as good as it sounds, [a blanket moratorium] really doesn’t have any teeth to it, as far as actually changing a borrower’s situation.” The upcoming January/February issue of HW Magazine looks at foreclosure moratoria in depth. Click here to learn more and to subscribe. Write to Diana Golobay at [email protected].

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