Georgia Using National Mortgage Deal Funds To Lure Corporations

Another state is using the money set aside to help struggling homeowners to do something else besides help struggling homeowners.

Georgia is using its chunk of the national mortgage settlement to fund two economic development organizations that provide incentives for businesses to move to the state, according to SaportaReport (h/t Think Progress). That means the nearly $100 million likely won’t end up in the hands of struggling homeowners and instead will benefit rural Georgia the most -- even though the state’s share of the funds was calculated largely based on the number of foreclosures in the Atlanta-metro area.

In May, Georgia had the highest foreclosure rate in the country, with one in every 300 houses in foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac.

The nation’s five largest mortgage lenders reached an agreement in February with the national government and 49 of the 50 states to pay $26 billion to settle allegations of widespread and systematic mortgage fraud. That money was divided among the states with the intention that it would aid struggling homeowners, but many states, including Georgia, have used the funds for other purposes instead.

While 27 states are using all of the money they got from the settlement to fund housing programs, about 15 states, including California and Texas, will use the money for other purposes. Indeed, just days after the settlement was reached, Wisconsin officials announced plans to use nearly 20 percent of the funds to close the state’s budget gap.

The misuse of the settlement funds is so egregious in some states that homeowners are suing state governments for their money. Two Arizona homeowners filed a lawsuit against the state’s treasurer and attorney general last month over their decision to use the settlement funds to plug the state’s budget gap instead of to help struggling homeowners.

The highly-touted mortgage deal has been disappointing in other ways too. As part of the deal, the banks agreed to offer at least $10 billion in loan forgiveness, but three months after the settlement many housing counselors report that the process for distributing that relief has been extremely slow.