WASHINGTON After the states split their $2.5 billion share of the landmark National Mortgage Settlement in February, less than half of the money they have allocated will be used as intended to aid in stopping preventable foreclosures and financial fraud and to help stabilize areas scarred by the housing crisis.
The settlement did not require states to spend the bulk of their share on housing, but that was the intent.
While states have announced plans to use $977 million of their direct payments for housing and foreclosure-related assistance, $989 million will go to fill budget shortfalls or for non-housing purposes, according to a report released Thursday by Enterprise Community Partners, a national affordable housing and community development group.
The report, which updated an earlier analysis, found that six states Missouri, California, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and New Jersey ignored the agreed-upon uses for the money entirely by directing nothing for housing-related activities.
It said that 23 states are using all, or nearly all, of their settlement money for housing, while five others New York, North Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts and Kentucky have dedicated between 70 percent and 89 percent for housing purposes.
Fourteen others, including Idaho and Illinois, are using less than half of their funds for the intended purposes.
Andrew Jakabovics, co-author of the report and senior director of policy development and research at Enterprise, said he understood the pressure on state budgets but that states should do the right thing by respecting the specific language, if not the intent, of the settlement.
Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, a social advocacy group, called the states actions economically shortsighted and morally bankrupt, because states would benefit from increased tax revenue by assisting troubled homeowners.
The $2.5 billion in direct payment to states was part of the $25 billion national settlement negotiated between the federal government, 49 states and the District of Columbia to address past improprieties by five large mortgage servicers; Ally (formerly GMAC), Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Oklahoma opted out of the settlement.
These include robo-signing, the forging of signatures on foreclosure documents to speed up the process without the proper review.
Missouri lawmakers used most of their $39.5 million to offset cuts in state higher education funding, the report found. Georgia steered its entire $99 million share of the settlement toward economic development programs.