'World News' Jumps to Criticize 30-Day Foreclosure Freeze

     No amount of reprieve for debtors is “sufficient” for critics. Following the Bush administration’s latest announcement of a mortgage grace period, ABC News fretted.


     The administration, in partnership with six of the biggest mortgage lenders in the United States, unveiled an anti-foreclosure proposal on February 12 as a goodwill gesture by the lenders.


     The program was announced by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and is called “Project Lifeline.” It is targeted toward homeowners who are already 90 days or more delinquent in their mortgage payments and it would give them a 30-day pause – more than these lenders are obligated to do.


     But, that’s not quite good enough for Allen Fishbein, Director of Credit and Housing Policy, Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Fishbein appeared on the February 12 ABC “World News with Charles Gibson” and insisted this wasn’t “sufficient.”


    “We don’t think it’s going to be sufficient, unless it leads to a permanent solution through loan modification to make these payments affordable for homeowners,” Fishbein said. “Otherwise, it’s just a PR effort.”


     Fishbein’s organization, CFA, advocates more government regulation in areas of home foreclosures. According to a January 30 CFA press release, the organization recommends to “establish new consumer protections to restore responsible lending in order to prevent the crisis from happening again.”


      ABC correspondent Betsy Stark fretted that some homeowners wouldn’t be covered under this proposal because it is not government-mandated.


     “Many homeowners in trouble will never even get the opportunity to buy some time because today’s program is voluntary,” Stark said. “If your mortgage company decides not to participate, there will be no lifeline for you.”


     Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a different “freeze” plan some claim would fix these mortgage problems.


     “Well, I would have a very aggressive policy toward trying to stop home foreclosures,” Clinton said on CNN’s “American Morning” February 5. “Again, I’m the only candidate left in this race on either side who’s been talking about the mortgage crisis for nearly a year. We need to put a moratorium on foreclosures to help people stay in their homes and we need to freeze these interest rates that continue to escalate, driving more and more people into foreclosure. A lot of people were misled. They were the victim of predatory lending practices and we need to stabilize the housing market.”


     But, as Massachusetts personal finance lawyer Stephen Heine pointed out to The New York Times, such a moratorium could be unconstitutional and likely very useless. A 90-day ‘moratorium’ on foreclosures is ludicrous, possibly unconstitutional, and of no help to someone who is already 6 months behind,” Heine said.