With Foreclosures Still High, Should Nevada Stop A Program That Helps?
The recession hit Nevada hard, lots of people lost jobs, and because of that, they lost their homes.
So Nevada kicked in a program to slow down the number of foreclosures by making banks work with homeowners.
But that program is almost at an end, even though Nevada's foreclosure rate remains about 33 percent higher than the national average.
The Foreclosure Mediation Program ends June 30, but there's a move afoot in the Legislature to extend it. Some say it was never promoted well, so many in foreclosure during the Recession didn't know about it.
Others, like homeowner Constanza Ariezaga, went through the process three times but said her lenders didn't act in good faith. And even after being told she qualified for a loan modification, the bank started the foreclosure process again.
"This has been a nightmare," Ariezaga told KNPR's State of Nevada.
Ariezaga said she and her husband have hired attorneys to try to help, but that hasn't worked out either. It has been eight years since they started the process to save their house from foreclosure, but she is still unable to get it worked out.
"I feel that what's happening here are people like me are being taken advantage of by everyone," she said.
Heidi Kyser is a staff writer for Desert Companion magazine. She reported on the program for an article in the latest issue.
She said when the program first launched many people were able to work out ways to keep their homes. However, as time has gone on, the number of foreclosure filings has dropped, but also the banks have become less and less cooperative.
"Last year, 1,894 mediations were held and 73 percent of them did not result in an agreement," Kyser said.
The bill before the Legislature to extend the mediation program would also give it more teeth. Currently, if a bank doesn't come to the table, as was the case with Ariezaga, the state would simply not write a certification of foreclosure.
But, the bank could then just start the process all over again, which is what happened with Ariezaga.
Under the proposed bill, the mediation would go directly to the district court, skipping the state-appointed mediator.
"This will skip the third party process and take is straight to the courts," Kyser said. "I think that the idea is to get that accountability right into the judicial system."
Kyser pointed out that foreclosures have gone down dramatically, especially since the height of the Great Recession and bursting of the housing bubble.
But there are many people, like the Ariezagas, who are still caught in the fallout from the recession with very few ways to get out.
"But the point is, that for those people who are in Constanza's situation there is still no recourse," she said, "So even if there are only 20 people going through this in Nevada, don't we want some avenue for them to be able to get this face-to-face conversation?"
State Senator Tick Segerblom supports the bill, and he believes the banks should be held responsible.
"Remember, it was the banks that got is us in this mess in the first place," he said, "They knew full well that the value of the homes couldn't possibly be what they were lending mortgages on."
He also warns that the rates on second and third mortgages that were taken out during the recession are about to go up when they hit the 10-year mark.
Segerblom believes extending the program means it will be available for those homeowners in the very near future.
From Desert Companion: Can we talk?
Constanza Ariezaga, homeowner; Heidi Kyser, staff writer, Desert Companion; Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas