Feb 09 - The U.S. government reached a $25 billion settlement with the country's biggest banks over shady practices used to force Americans out of their homes through foreclosure. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The U.S. hopes it finally has a solution to the housing crisis - a $25 billion solution. 49 states have teamed up to force big banks to pay up. JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial have agreed to rectify allegations each engaged in deceptive lending practice and took illegal shortcuts on the road to foreclosure. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder: SOUNDBITE: U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "These failures didn't just hurt borrowers, who might have been able to afford modified mortgages. They fueled the downward spiral of our economy and of communities nationwide. They eroded faith in our financial system." Here's where the money is going: $17 billion is for loan modifications; $3 billion for under water mortgages, which means the mortgage is more than the house is worth; $1.5 billion goes directly to borrowers who already lost their homes through foreclosure; And then another $2.5 billion goes to state governments for housing programs. It took a year-long chaotic battle to get even that, and some housing and homeowner advocates say the agreement is just the first step. We spoke to Sarah Ludwig of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project via Skype. SOUNDBITE: SARAH LUDWIG, CO-DIRECTOR, NEIGHBORHOOD ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ADVOCACY PROJECT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "What's absolutely not clear at this point and I don't know if the State Attorneys General have an clarity on this is that how an individual homeowner is either under water on his or her mortgage, or who needs to be refinanced in order to avoid foreclosure or for people who already lost their homes in foreclosure - how are those dollar amounts going to translate into actual help for home owners." President Obama admits this is just part of the healing process. SOUNDBITE: UNITED STATES PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (ENGLISH) SAYING: "And no action, no matter how meaningful is going to by itself entirely heal the housing market." And there are hopes this will finally loosen housing's tight grip on the rest of the economy. Conway Gittens, Reuters