Florida homeowners have received more than $3 billion in mortgage relief and benefits from the nation’s five largest banks since a landmark settlement was signed in March to atone for foreclosure-related offenses.
But the majority of the banks’ debt forgiveness has come in the form of short sales, a gesture that homeowner advocates say doesn’t match the goal of the agreement, which was to keep borrowers in their homes.
More than $2.2 billion, or 63 percent of Florida’s total take so far from the settlement, has been in deficiency waivers for short sales, according to quarterly progress reports submitted this week to settlement monitor Joseph Smith.
A short sale is when a lender agrees to take less for a home than what the borrower owes on the mortgage. Banks can still pursue borrowers for that unpaid debt, unless they waive that right in the deal.
As part of the nationwide $25 billion agreement with Bank of America, Ally Financial, Citimortgage, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, forgiving short sale debt is one way lenders can meet their financial obligations.
Nationwide, about 60 percent of the debt forgiven through Sept. 30 has been through short sale deficiency waivers.
“We believed the intent and motivation for this settlement was to keep people in their homes,” said Laura Johns, a community organizer with the Home Defenders League, a national organization whose Florida base is in Orlando. “What we see happening in Florida is people being pushed out of their homes and the homes going to investors.”
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