The Subprime Borrower Protection Plan

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Dean Baker
August 20, 2007

This proposal ensures that subprime borrowers will not be thrown out of their home because they cannot meet the terms of a predatory mortgage.

The plan:

  1. Gives homeowners facing foreclosure the option of renting their home for as long as they want at the fair market rate. This rate is determined by an independent appraiser in the same way that an appraiser determines the market value of a home when a bank issues a mortgage.
  2. The proposal requires no taxpayer dollars or new bureaucracies. It would be administered by a judge in the same way that foreclosures are already overseen by judges. It simply changes the rules under which foreclosures can be put into effect.
  3. The proposal does not bail out in any way lenders who made predatory mortgages or made risky gambles in the secondary market.
  4. There are no windfalls for homeowners. They will have the right to stay in their house, but will no longer own the home. This means that there is no real incentive to abuse the program. The plan would be capped at the value of the median house price in a metropolitan area, so it will not benefit high income homebuyers.
  5. Rents will be adjusted in later years by the Labor Department’s consumer price index for rents in the area. If either the owner or renter believes that their rent is unfair, they can arrange, at their own expense, to have the court make a second appraisal.
  6. After the foreclosure, the mortgage holder is free to resell the house, but the buyer is still bound by the commitment to accept the former homeowner as a tenant indefinitely.
  7. By allowing homeowners to stay in their house as renters, this plan will help to prevent the sort of blight that often afflicts neighborhoods with large numbers of foreclosures. Homes will remain occupied, and long-term renters will have an incentive to keep up the appearance of the property. This should help to sustain property values for whole neighborhoods.


Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (www.conservativenannystate.org). He also has a blog, "Beat the Press," where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues. You can find it at the American Prospect's web site.