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‘Scorecard’ not really so rosy

By Marcie Geffner ·
Friday, December 3, 2010
Posted: 1 pm ET

The Obama administration has released its November 2010 "Housing Scorecard" report.

The report came out with an accompanying press release that, like most such documents, is short on hard facts, but long on data snippets and canned quotes.

The quotes, attributed to officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, are heavy on empty phrases like "significant strides," "swift actions," "ensuring that help is available," "program enhancements," "making every effort," "meaningful alternatives to avoidable foreclosures" and my personal favorite, "continuing to focus on successfully implementing."

Meanwhile, the real information -- "real" being a relative term here -- is contained in the full eight-page report, which offers up a dozen not-bad charts that track various aspects of the U.S. housing market.

Only one of the charts is directly on point to the topic of foreclosures. "Foreclosure Starts and Completions Remain Elevated" shows, sort of, what the title suggests. Both new and completed foreclosure actions have bounced along in peaks and valleys since early 2008. Not shown, however, are the prior-year periods in which foreclosures were practically nil. A note on the chart reports that 1.6 million mortgages on owner-occupied, investor-owned, second home and jumbo-loan properties have been foreclosed since April 2009. Whatever the cause, blame or sadly inevitable finger-pointing, 1.6 million foreclosures is not a happy statistic.

Another chart that's also interesting and indirectly on point is "Home Equity Up More Than $1 Trillion Since First Quarter 2009." This chart shows that homeowners regained some of their lost equity from the first quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010, a period of six quarters. What's also shown on the chart, yet not reflected in the title, however, is that the blue bars of homeowner equity were substantially taller back in the first quarter of 2006. It's that loss of equity, not the comparatively smaller rebound, that pushes homeowners on the edge into foreclosure.

Until these statistics are substantially reversed or at least significantly improved, we might not want to count too much on a housing recovery.

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