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Where's the National Mortgage Settlement Money?

PHOTO: Less than half of the $2.5 billion in National Mortgage Settlement money, paid by banks to states, is being used to assist troubled homeowners and prevent foreclosures.
PHOTO: Less than half of the $2.5 billion in National Mortgage Settlement money, paid by banks to states, is being used to assist troubled homeowners and prevent foreclosures.
October 19, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – When Utah received almost $22 million as part of the National Mortgage Settlement from banks after the nation's mortgage lending crisis, the state did not use it to help struggling homeowners. And according to a new report from Enterprise Community Partners, many states have chosen to spend their settlement money elsewhere. It says less than half of the $2.5 billion total is being used for restitution, housing counseling and foreclosure prevention.

In Utah, 83 percent went into the General Fund - and of the remaining 17 percent, none was spent on housing counseling. At the Utah Housing Coalition, program coordinator Afton January says it's been a big disappointment.

"That education is really key to helping people understand what their situation is, and how they can either climb out of it or recover from it, if it's not a situation that can be cured through some kind of an intervention option."

The report says $1.75 million was spent on programs to help homeless Utahns, and $2 million went to the Utah Attorney General's office to hire more staff for investigating fraud, including mortgage fraud. January says her group thinks those are worthy goals, but they don't focus on keeping people from losing their homes.

In the meantime, the handful of housing counseling agencies around the state have already cut their services and, in some cases, shut their doors since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding ended. The state has put them in a tough spot for future fundraising, says January.

"Our agencies have had to turn to the banks themselves - who rightly feel that settlement was meant to fund housing counseling. And so, the banks are in the awkward position of having to tell our agencies, you know, 'We gave money to your state. We can't help you now.' "

When the housing counselors had the federal Recovery Act dollars, she says, they were very effective - helping 1300 Utah families remain in their homes. She hopes the next legislature will see fit to allocate some funding.

See the report, "States Fall Short on Help for Housing," here.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT