In a move heralded by housing advocates, Administrative Judge John W. Herron has decided to preserve the city’s nationally known Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program.
“Foreclosures are rising in the city, and curtailing the Diversion program would have removed critical protections for homeowners at just the wrong time,” said John Dodds, Director,
Philadelphia Unemployment Project and an advocate of the program. “This program has been a national model.”
Last month Herron suggested altering the program, setting a limit of 150 days for mediation efforts between banks and homeowners. However, on Tuesday he decided to let the program remain as it had been with no formal timeframe for mediation.
Herron could not be reached for comment.
Dodds worried that setting a limit would favor the banks who could simply stall until time expired.
“The problem is that banks do not have their act together at all,” Dodds said. “All the bank has to do is do nothing — then the family goes right out the door.”
Acknowledging a backlog in cases, Dodds said people were more important than procedure.
“We couldn’t let it be undercut for the sake of ‘efficiency,’ when that would mean people losing their homes needlessly,” he said. “Many forces came together to protect the Diversion program — from the labor movement, to the housing agencies, to the homeowner attorneys, to homeowners to the mayor and City Council. They all knew how important the program is.”
In March, Council formally called on Herron to preserve the program.
More than 5,000 Philadelphia families have saved their homes through the diversion program since its inception
“It is not time to end the mortgage diversion program,” said Councilwoman Marian Tasco last month. “It is a national model. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The move comes as the Philadelphia metropolitan area faces a significant increase in foreclosures. Last month, a report by RealTrac found that the number of foreclosures jumped to a total of 2,940 in February, a 47.2 percent over the same period last year.