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Mortgage Crisis Solution Pitched in KY

December 11, 2008

Frankfort, KY – One of every 10 homeowners in Kentucky is either in foreclosure or behind on mortgage payments, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But these Kentuckians could get a fresh start in the New Year and erase much of the housing crisis if an economist succeeds in promoting what some think is a "radical" idea.

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He suggests that the state pass a law allowing those facing foreclosure to pay "fair market rent" to their bank so they could stay in their home for at least 10 years, at which point the loan could be renegotiated.

"It's really simple. It requires no bureaucracy, doesn't cost the taxpayers anything, and it takes effect immediately. You do it tomorrow, it takes effect tomorrow."

Some banking experts have criticized the proposal because the industry would still be losing money. They say "fair market rent" in many cases won't cover minimum payments on the loans.

Baker calls his idea a "bridge" that eliminates problems like abandoned houses losing value because of neglect, vandalism or becoming drug houses. He says it gives banks and homeowners a reason to stay the course and work something out, and it sustains the property tax base.

"If banks no longer have the option to simply throw someone out on the street, it gives bankers a real incentive to negotiate terms that allow the borrower to stay in the house as a homeowner."

Baker says there is a similar federal proposal in the works. It would allow those facing foreclosure to rent their homes at "fair market rent" for 20 years before renegotiating the loan.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - KY