subprime home mortgages, foreclosure, housing policy, delinquency


A surge in delinquency among risky subprime home mortgages has produced calls for front-end regulatory fixes as well as emergency foreclosure avoidance interventions. Whatever the merit of those interventions, this Essay calls for home mortgage delinquency management to be conceptualized as an enduring component of housing policy. The Essay identifies and evaluates a framework for the management of delinquency that is not limited to formal foreclosure law and includes other debtor-creditor laws such as bankruptcy, industry loss mitigation efforts, and third-party interventions such as delinquency housing counseling. The Essay also proposes that delinquency management be evaluated through the lens of objectives commonly used to justify public investment in home ownership and home mortgage markets: to build household wealth and economic self-sufficiency, to generate positive social-psychological states, and to develop stable neighborhoods and communities. Because those ends are not inexorably linked to ownership generally or owning a particular home, a system of delinquency management that honors these objectives should strive to provide fair, transparent, humane, and predictable strategies for home exit as well as for home retention.

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