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Sub-Prime Mortgage Proposals Raise Serious Legal Issues

As a Texas real estate and development attorney who has represented lenders, borrowers and developers in Texas for years, I find the current debate over sub prime mortgages to be especially interesting. Sub prime loan foreclosures in Texas are not as extensive as they are in other states, however, they are still of concern in Texas and certainly nationally. Hillary Clinton has proposed a ninety day moratorium for foreclosures on sub-prime loans, according to her web site. Manny Fernandez in a recent article in the New York Times online describes how politicians in New York are pushing for a one year moratorium on sub-prime mortgage delinquencies in that state. One of these politicians, James Brennan, a Brooklyn Democrat, is quoted as saying: “There’s nothing wrong with giving people some time to see if better arrangements can be worked out.”

627114_suburban_street.jpg Will someone please send these politicians to economics school? Their proposals may be designed to get votes, but they do not appear to deal in an educated way with the current sub-prime mortgage issues. For one thing, these proposals are based on the assumption that all sub-prime loans were made by evil, greedy lenders who imposed fraudulent terms on unsuspecting borrowers. I doubt that this is the situation for every sub prime loan out there. Secondly, a certain portion of these borrowers will not be able to pay any type of reasonable monthly payment, and should not have qualified for these loans in the first place. Giving them more time to “work things out” may be a fantasy. Thirdly, who is going to be responsible for deterioration in the condition of some of these homes while payments are not being made (since the threat of foreclosure often serves to dampen homeowner maintenance and repair)? Fourth, have these politicians calculated the cost to the economy of the mortgages to qualified borrowers that do not get made because of the chill this “solution” has on the mortgage lending market? And finally, do we really want government to step in and rescue people who have, in many cases, made an uninformed or inappropriate financial decision?

This kind of mass moratorium is calculated to wreck havoc with financial markets (can you say recession?). So in answer to James Brennan’s comment that there is nothing wrong with a moratorium, I would have to respond: think again! These proposals seem to illustrate what our form of government does best: create ill-considered quick-fixes to complicated problems in the hopes that voters will buy in to the illusion that something is being done.