Easing some of California's housing headaches, nearly 62,000 homeowners statewide got roughly $8.2 billion in mortgage relief between March and September this year, according to a report released Monday by the California Monitor for the National Mortgage Settlement.
"The banks are delivering the relief a lot faster than we expected," said Katherine Porter, a UC Irvine law professor who oversees California's portion of the nationwide $25 billion settlement. "So in every way possible that's positive. ... It means more people are staying in their homes."
Under terms of the national settlement between 49 states and five banks (Ally, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo), California gets $18 billion in assorted mortgage programs for homeowners who were underwater or foreclosed upon during the recent housing meltdown.
Of California's total, $12 billion is in specific mortgage relief loan principal reductions and loan forgiveness in short-sale transactions from three of the five banks (BofA, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.)
The national settlement was launched after discoveries in 2010 that a number of major U.S. banks had been fraudulently "robo-signing" foreclosure documents for hundreds of thousands of mortgages.
Paul Leonard, California director of the Center for Responsible Lending in Oakland, said Monday's report showed the banks' progress under the settlement is "clearly headed in the right direction."
He said it was notable that a third of Bank of America's relief went to underwater homeowners in the state's hardest-hit counties, which include Sacramento and Yuba.
In her report, Porter said Bank of America has extended principal reduction offers totaling more than $100 million to 497 homeowners in Sacramento County. In Yuba County, it has offered $2.6 million to 16 homeowners. Some of those loan modifications have been completed; some were still in progress as of September.
Overall, she said the average amount of completed first mortgage principal reduction by Bank of America is $210,105. (Detailed amounts from the other two banks were not readily available.)
BofA, which bought subprime lender Countrywide and inherited a large portfolio of soured mortgages, carries the largest amount of promised mortgage relief under California's settlement.
Given the rate of progress, Porter said she anticipates that all three banks will have completed their targets well before the March 2015 deadline.
Also on Monday, the National Mortgage Settlement office reported that the five banks extended more than $26.11 billion in "gross relief" to more than 300,000 borrowers nationwide, roughly $84,385 per homeowner. However, those numbers are considered preliminary and must be audited before they are deemed final.