This week the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation aimed at helping Americans keep their homes through bankruptcy.
I introduced the Helping Families Save Their Homes In Bankruptcy Act of 2009 to give courts the power to modify mortgages to bring them in line with underlying home values. For families in distress, this is a much-needed reform. And considering the realistic alternatives, it is fair to all concerned.
I have been working on this bill for nearly two years. I believe it represents one of the most tangible and productive steps we can take to limit the fallout from the real-estate depression that has been sweeping the nation. While it is not the entire answer to the economic crisis, it is a common-sense and practical approach to stopping a downward spiral where foreclosures also depress nearby home values and thereby hurt other homeowners. This spiral is not helping anyone -- not homeowners, not lenders, and certainly not communities.
Some argue that we are acting too quickly, and that we should delay my legislation to give homeowners and lenders more time to modify the terms of existing mortgages on a voluntary basis outside of bankruptcy.
But the evidence shows that such modifications don't work. For one thing, many of the servicers who control the mortgage loans claim they are not legally permitted to agree to voluntary modifications. And even when they are legally permitted to agree, their financial incentives are stacked in the direction of foreclosure.
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