The plan

It was always the plan to pretend we were going to help people with their mortgages without actually helping them. Progress!

A year after five of the nation’s biggest banks reached a pact with state and federal officials over claims of vast foreclosure abuses, the banks are taking credit for giving more than half a million struggling homeowners roughly $45.8 billion in relief.


But despite the banner numbers released on Thursday in a report by Joseph A. Smith, the independent overseer of the settlement, thousands of homeowners are still not getting the help they need to save their homes from foreclosure, according to interviews with housing advocates and homeowners facing foreclosure.


Just under 71,000 borrowers, or 13 percent of the total borrowers helped so far, received assistance on their primary mortgage, which has been the main source of defaults and foreclosures through the housing crisis. But more than 170,000 homeowners received assistance on their second mortgage, which typically is a home equity line of credit that borrowers can tap for cash.


Even though addressing second mortgages does offer some relief to homeowners, in a troubling number of instances the banks are not providing any help with the first mortgage, the housing advocates said. That leaves the homeowners still in jeopardy of losing their homes, while giving banks credit for restructuring loans or wiping out debt under the settlement.


“The second mortgage forgiveness is basically a loophole, which allows the banks to continue foreclosures unabated,” said Elizabeth M. Lynch, a lawyer at MFY Legal Services in New York.


Based on the monitor’s report, it is impossible to tell how many homeowners who received help on their second mortgage are still facing foreclosure on their first mortgage. Ms. Lynch and other advocates estimate that thousands of homeowners across the country are in that predicament.

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