Washington, DC – December 19, 2006 – A new Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) study reveals that 2.2 million American households will lose their homes and as much as $164 billion due to foreclosures in the subprime mortgage market. Titled, "Losing Ground: Foreclosures in the Subprime Market and Their Cost to Homeowners," the CRL study is the first comprehensive, nationwide review of millions of subprime mortgages originated from 1998 through the third quarter of 2006.

CRL's research suggests that risky lending practices have triggered the worst foreclosure crisis in the modern mortgage market, projecting that one out of five (19.4%) subprime loans issued during 2005-2006 will fail.

"In the subprime sector, the most vulnerable borrowers are sold the most dangerous loans," said Mike Calhoun, CRL president. "At $164 billion, the losses from foreclosures could pay for the college educations of four million kids. For families who lose their houses because their loans fail, savings and economic security will be way out of reach."

The report discusses a number of factors that drive subprime foreclosures -- in the majority of cases, borrowers receive high- risk loan features, packed into an adjustable rate mortgage with a low start rate, that is approved without considering whether the homeowner can afford to pay the loan after the rate rises.

Adjustable rate mortgages known as 2/28s (or "exploding ARMs") operate with an initial "teaser" rate for two years, followed by a steep payment increase. And, regardless of a borrower's credit history, the almost one-quarter of American families who get subprime loans find them crammed with other high- risk terms such as prepayment penalties, limited income documentation, and no escrow for property taxes and hazard insurance.

In recent years, high appreciation in many areas has masked problems in the subprime market. CRL projects that the cooling housing market, will cause failure rates to rise sharply in many major markets. California, Arizona, Nevada, and greater Washington, DC will be especially hard hit.

"Foreclosures can be a disaster not only for the family but for the community as well," said Pat Vredevoogd Combs, president of National Association of Realtors. "When one home forecloses, the surrounding houses lose value, too. By threatening neighborhood stability, foreclosures hurt everyone."

Trouble in the overall subprime market spells trouble for African American and Latino families across the country. Although white families receive more subprime loans overall, African Americans and Latinos receive a higher proportion of high-cost loans than any other group, a fact consistently verified annually by data lenders submit underthe Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). "Losing Ground" estimates that 8 to10 percent of all African American and Latino families who received a home loan in 2005 will be affected by subprime foreclosures.

"Homeownership rates for minorities are up but so, too, is the cost of that homeownership," said Wade Henderson, executive director of Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "We need rules to curb predatory lenders, but we also need prime lenders to step up for this expanding market of borrowers."

Policymakers and regulators can and must act to stem the tide of home failures in the subprime market. To accomplish this CRL recommends that:

  • Lenders ensure that every borrower is able to repay his or her loan without resorting to selling their property or refinancing under pressure.
  • All parties involved operate in good faith and fair dealing to ensure a successful outcome.
  • Lenders, local governments, and community groups implement strong programsto help troubled borrowers keep their homes.

Homeowners work hard to provide the economic security and benefits of ownership to their families. Changes must be made in the subprime market so that owning a home is fair, affordable and – most important -- sustainable.

For more information: Sharon Reuss, (919) 313-8527 or sharon.reuss@responsiblelending.org.

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