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Half of Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Hard Dollars Diverted Away From Housing Programs By States

We’ve been following this issue of states using the hard dollars in the foreclosure fraud settlement – which is only about $2.5 billion, 10% of the total amount – as free money they can use to fill their budget gaps, rather than the notional goal of the settlement, to help homeowners. Some state leaders have had the audacity to claim that plugging the budget does help homeowners, in a roundabout way. Whatever works, I guess.

Now McClatchy catches us up on the issue, based on a new report put out yesterday by Enterprise Community Partners, a housing advocacy group.

While states have announced plans to use $977 million of their direct payments for housing and foreclosure-related assistance, $989 million will go to fill budget shortfalls or for non-housing purposes, according to a report released Thursday by Enterprise Community Partners, a national affordable housing and community development group.

The report, which updated an earlier analysis, found that six states – Missouri, California, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and New Jersey – ignored the agreed-upon uses for the money entirely by directing nothing for housing-related activities.

It said that 23 states are using all, or nearly all, of their settlement money for housing, while five others – New York, North Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts and Kentucky – have dedicated between 70 percent and 89 percent for housing purposes.

Fourteen others, including Idaho and Illinois, are using less than half of their funds for the intended purposes.

This isn’t completely comprehensive, as that adds up to a bit less than $2 billion, or about 80% of the total commitment. Florida and Texas have delayed their decisions on the use of the funds, and that makes up the bulk of the uncommitted money. But the trend is pretty clear: about half the money from the settlement will go to something other than homeowner relief. And the definition of “housing-related activities” has been fairly broad: North Dakota is using it to help house emergency services and law enforcement personnel in new boom areas caused by oil production. That hardly fits with the spirit of the settlement.

Of the six states that diverted all of their foreclosure fraud settlement money, two have Democratic governors and four have Republican governors. In Missouri and New Jersey, it was a bipartisan affair, given the split between the governor and the legislature. The states which devoted “minimal” funds to homeowners mostly are Republican: Idaho, Utah, Wisconsin, Virginia, Maine, and Illinois.

You can read the report from Enterprise, written by Andrew Jakabovics and William McHale, at the link.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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