The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) latest Housing Scorecard for March, released in conjunction with the U.S. Treasury, showed progress in the housing market, but cautioned that the national economy is still healing from the Great Recession. In particular, the report commented that foreclosure starts continued to decrease while January home prices remained stable.
"While there is good news in the March Scorecard, it's clear the housing market is still in the recovery phase of the cycle," said HUD Deputy assistant secretary for Economic Affairs, Kurt Usowski. "The good news is that homeowners' equity is now over $10 trillion, foreclosure starts are at their lowest levels since 2005, and house prices remain stable, but the recovery is stronger in some markets than in others."
Citing data from RealtyTrac, HUD found newly initiated foreclosure starts were 51,842, down 9 percent from January and 27 percent from a year ago. Foreclosure starts are at their lowest levels since December, 2005.
30,307 properties were repossessed (REO), which was virtually the same figure as January and down 33 percent from the previous year.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that the purchase-only house index rose 7.4 percent, up .5 percent seasonally-adjusted from December. The government report noted that home values are on par with prices in mid-2005.
"Overall, with home sales slowing, too many homeowners still underwater, and mortgage delinquency rates remaining high compared to historic norms, we must sustain our efforts to encourage continuing recovery in the housing market and help responsible homeowners," Usowski added.
A bright spot in the report highlighted the Obama administration's loss mitigation programs.
Government programs have extended mortgage aid nearly 7.6 million times to homeowners through mortgage modifications and other forms of mortgage assistance arrangements between April 2009 and February 2014. The report found that mortgage aid has outpaced foreclosures.
The Making Home Affordable Program has helped 2 million homeowners, while the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) has assisted 1.3 million homeowners.
The scorecard noted that HOPE Now lenders had offered families and individuals more than 4 million property modifications through January.
"The Administration's Making Home Affordable program continues to provide assistance to struggling homeowners, with more than 1.3 million homeowners receiving permanent modifications through HAMP," said Tim Bowler, Treasury Acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability. "In addition, the standards set through the program have helped change the industry and helped millions more avoid foreclosure."