Minn. lawmakers focus on foreclosure prevention - Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Minn. lawmakers focus on foreclosure prevention

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The housing market is starting to rebound, but that doesn't mean the foreclosure crisis is finished and Minnesota lawmakers are focusing on how to help struggling homeowners.

On the same day that home ownership groups rolled out a new program to help homeowners stay out of financial trouble, policy makers honed in on a number of bills that seek to help homeowners negotiate with their banks at the Capitol.

Hawthorne Avenue East in St. Paul is a street that shows the foreclosure crisis is far from over, but a rehabbed five-bedroom home just sold. On Tuesday, housing advocates used that home as a backdrop for the unveiling of a new web-based financial tool for first-time homeowners.

"Even during the crisis when things were getting very, very bad, and home prices were falling through the floor, people were struggling with their mortgage," explained Ed Nelson, of the Minnesota Homeownership Center. "If they had had a home buyer education on the front end, they were 30 percent less likely to default on their mortgage."

In Minnesota, home foreclosures dropped to 17,800 last year -- a decline of 16 percent from the year before. That's a trend advocates want to see continue further, and they hope the education available through the Framework program will help.

Lawmakers in both chambers are also hoping to introduce measures that will simplify things by forcing banks to provide homeowners with one contact person for their mortgage concerns.

"It is very helpful to bring that voice by the lender into one place so that people are getting a straight understanding where their loan is and what the issues are," said Commerce Department Commissioner Mike Rothman, who told FOX 9 News the legislation is needed.

The bill would also stop what's known as "dual tracking," which is where a bank works with a homeowner on a mortgage modification while simultaneously proceeding with foreclosure.

Even if the law passes and education increase, housing advocates say there is still a long way to go because foreclosure numbers are still 350 percent higher than 2005 rates.

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