David Kirkpatrick

January 13, 2009

Bankruptcy reform is driving foreclosures

After the shenanigans of the last couple of years, I think the banking industry needs government oversight to stand on its neck for a year or two. Clearly bankers are incapable of taking charge of themselves.

Bankruptcy is a powerful tool that never should have been altered for individuals. It shouldn’t be abused, but sometimes it is necessary.

From the link:

There’s no shortage of blame for the mortgage crisis that drove the economy into the ditch.

But here’s a fresh culprit: the 2005 bankruptcy reform act, which was strongly pushed by the credit card industry.

So say three researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who argue that the legislation shifted risk from credit card lenders to mortgage lenders, helping trigger the surge in home foreclosures.

Before Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, households could erase their unsecured debts by filing for Chapter 7 liquidation. That freed up income that distressed homeowners could use to make mortgage payments.

The new law, however, forced better-off households seeking bankruptcy protection to file under Chapter 13. That chapter requires homeowners to continue paying their unsecured lenders.

In other words, say the Fed researchers, cash-strapped homeowners who might have saved their homes by filing Chapter 7 are now much more likely to face foreclosure.

“Is it just coincidence that the surge in subprime foreclosures that has rocked financial markets came right after the bankruptcy reform in 2005?” they asked. “Is that surge just about falling home prices, bad mortgage decisions and weak economic conditions?

“No and no.”

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