As the economy lagged in 2020, unemployment went up, and more and more homeowners began to miss mortgage payments or became worried they would miss payments in the future. Forbearances and mortgage moratoria helped, but many borrowers didn’t know how to take advantage of the programs or wanted to know what to do when the programs ended.
NeighborWorks America joined forces with a broad group of financial services organizations in November to launch the “Not OK? That’s OK” campaign. Working with HUD-approved counselors, the campaign educated consumers on the assistance available to help them stay in their homes by working with their lenders.
The campaign calls on critical lessons learned from the 2008 housing crisis, engaging a multi-sector response – lenders, servicers, industry groups and community-based nonprofits – to reach and educate more borrowers.
Other sponsors of the partnership include the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American Bankers Association and the Housing Policy Council, with backing of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
All the stakeholders, including lenders, want to stay engaged with borrowers, said James Burke, foreclosure prevention manager at the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor Research Fund Inc. (NCALL), a NeighborWorks network organization, based in Dover, Delaware. Burke said that is a lesson that lenders learned from 2008, which has paved the way for more synergy and transparency.
“Lenders are there to make interest, not to take your home,” Burke said. “Some borrowers think the lender wants their house. We have to get past that misconception. Now if you’re two months late, lenders are reaching out to ask, ‘How can we help?’”
Lenders will recommend working with HUD counselors and NeighborWorks organizations because they understand the value of the resource.
“They don’t want you to be an ostrich and stick your head in the sand.”
Burke said there are also lessons that can be learned from the 2020 economic downturn. “The people who are the backbone of America are the ones who got hurt by COVID-19,” Burke said. “People are starting to see that no one wants to see them in that situation again.”