The best hope for stemming the tide of foreclosures is for the federal government to back implementation of mandatory mediation programs at the state and local level, a report from the Center for American Progress argues.

More than 80 percent of homeowners at risk of losing their homes hadn’t tried to work out alternatives to foreclosure with their loan servicers at the end of last year, authors Andrew Jakabovics and Alon Cohen maintain.

Homeowners fighting foreclosure in court sometimes receive hearings as short as 15 seconds before losing their homes, they say in the report, "It’s Time We Talked: Mandatory Mediation in the Foreclosure Process."

Jurisdictions in nine U.S. states are employing alternative dispute resolution methods that include mandatory mediation. Among the best programs, nearly 75 of cases are resolved without resorting to formal foreclosure proceedings, the report said.

The federal government could take a more direct role in providing opportunities for mediation by:

  • Funding state and local mandatory mediation programs, as it provides neighborhood stabilization funds to alleviate the housing crisis.
  • Issuing guidance permitting community development block grants to be used to fund mandatory mediation programs as an interim measure.
  • Requiring mediation for all federally insured mortgages, expanding upon an existing requirement that all FHA servicers engage in loss-mitigation efforts prior to foreclosure.
  • Requiring that loan servicers acting on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac participate in mediation prior to foreclosure.
  • Requiring all loan servicers participating in the Home Affordable Modification Program to participate in mandatory mediation prior to foreclosure in cases where a modification is not possible under program rules.

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