The national foreclosure settlement has been a bonanza for nearly 20,000 Nevada homeowners. Between March 1, 2012, and March 31 of this year, housing relief from big banks had an average value of $97,000, either through mortgage refinancing, principal reductions or short sales, the state reported this week. No doubt, that $1.9 billion in assistance helped a lot of families hold onto their homes or escape crushing negative equity altogether.
Those are big numbers. But they’re tiny when compared with the figures behind the state’s overall housing woes.
In the Las Vegas area alone, 54.3 percent of homeowners were underwater in the first quarter of this year, according to Zillow data. More than 181,000 homes had negative equity totaling $17.6 billion.
It’s another reminder that there isn’t nearly enough money, whether it comes from government-coerced settlements or the government itself, to make every homeowner whole in the wake of the 2007 housing market crash.
That hasn’t stopped federal and state officials from unveiling grand plan after grand plan to bail out select homeowners, one by one. Such programs allow politicians to use them as high-minded campaign fodder to buy votes come re-election time, regardless of whether the initiatives worked.
Such is the case this time. And that’s without even taking into account whether any of the 20,000 Nevadans helped through this settlement had been legitimately victimized by banks. With the exception of isolated cases of banks foreclosing on the wrong homes, those supposedly wronged by their lender weren’t paying their mortgage.
In fact, most Nevadans who received aid as a result of this settlement weren’t truly aggrieved parties. They were beneficiaries of a political shakedown on behalf of “victims” who weren’t actually harmed.
That doesn’t matter much to your governments, where at all levels, any and all problems can be solved by throwing money here, starting a program there. In this case, unfortunately, all of the cash being handed out — not just here in Southern Nevada, but around the country — is being disbursed based solely upon which bank holds a mortgage. If your note is held by Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup or Ally Financial, you’re in luck. If it’s been swallowed up by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, too bad.
Most Southern Nevada homeowners surely remain in a rough spot these days, the ongoing recovery notwithstanding. All would be grateful for assistance. But as this settlement is proving, targeted relief usually falls short of the target.