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The State of NoVa
Posted at 02:54 PM ET, 02/09/2012

Will Prince William, NoVa benefit from housing settlement?


For sale across the country and in NoVa. (Andrew Harrer - Bloomberg)
Housing counselors in one of the East Coast’s hardest hit areas for foreclosures are reacting with tepid optimism at the settlement between banks and state officials Thursday.

Prince William County was the epicenter of Virginia’s housing crisis, which has largely abated but has left thousands “underwater,” or owing more than their home is worth.

Mickey Rhoades, a housing counselor for the city of Manassas said that residents who lost their homes would see little benefit from the small, roughly $2,000 payments that foreclosed home owners would be eligible for under the settlement. “How can it make a difference?” she asked. “The home is gone.”

She said, however, that “underwater” home owners may see some relief under the settlement — banks have agreed to reduce the amount of money mortgage owners owe on homes, although not all the details of the proposal have been ironed out. As banks and lenders work through the details, she’s eager to see how the settlement will play out. “We have to work through these first weeks to see what kind of impact it will have on our communities, but it sure does sound good.”

Larry Laws, the executive director of First Home Alliance, a Woodbridge, Va.-based housing counseling agency, said those who have been foreclosed on would see little help from the roughly $2,000 they expect to receive from the settlement. “It’s not a whole lot and it’s probably insignificant for someone who could have gotten help through a [loan] modification,” he said. “That’s not even a Band-Aid.”

But he said that other federal programs that have looked to address the issue have had a cap on how much “underwater” a home can be in order to benefit from the program. For example, a home that has decreased 200 percent wasn’t eligible in the past. Those details have yet to be explained, he said.

Laws also said expensive homes that are vastly underwater in northern Virginia may see little benefit from a relatively small reduction. Reducing a $500,000 mortgage by $30,000 might result in just $150 savings per month, he said. “That’s two tanks of gas for some people,” he said. “Maybe across the nation [in less expensive housing markets] it will have more of an impact.”

According to the Post’s Sara Kehaulani Goo, the attorney general’s office has developed a form for residents to fill out. (Check out her full post and what this means for Virginians here). It asks that residents who have gone through a foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2011, and have moved during that process, to go to the Attorney General’s Web site and fill out the form.

Any “underwater” or foreclosed home owners out there in NoVa have any thoughts on the decision? Respond with a comment or feel free to e-mail me at bordenj@washpost.com.

By  |  02:54 PM ET, 02/09/2012

 
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