This week, city residents and lawyers at a Philadelphia City Hall news conference, called on the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) to eliminate a policy that often requires homeowners facing foreclosure to first pay off any liens against them before their mortgage can be modified, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. These liens, the lawyers said, can include water and gas debts, real estate back taxes, medical bills, or parking tickets.
According to housing advocates, homeowners with Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans administered by PHFA have had a harder time securing permanent loan modification when they have liens and judgments against them. The loans allow homeowners to pay as little as 3.5% of a purchase price for a down payment.
“It’s a practice that threatens [homeowners] with the unnecessary loss of their homes, and threatens to put people into a market where housing is not affordable [and] is not available,” said Irwin Trauss, a lawyer with Philadelphia Legal Assistance.
Kate Newton, PHFA’s Director of Loan Servicing, told the The Philadelphia Inquirer that the issue boils down to PHFA trying to comply with regulations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nearly half of the athe PHFA’s portfolio is FHA loans, and in the past two years, the PHFA has agreed to permanently modify more than 500 loans in Philadelphia.
“Unless [these municipal liens] do a subordination agreement or they get paid off ... we know our modified mortgage would not be in first position,” Newton said. “... It would be a lot easier for us if we didn’t have to worry about doing all of this, and we don’t want to be in this position, either.”
According to ATTOM Data Solutions, 277 Philadelphia homeowners had foreclosure proceedings filed against them in August 2019. Additionally, Philadelphia holds one of the highest foreclosure rates among cities with at least one million people, at one in every 1,422 housing units as of August 2019.