California County Considers a Rescue Plan for Struggling Homeowners

by Jennifer Medina, NY Times
Friday, July 20th, 2012

Browning lawns surround the otherwise neat houses in these once-sparkling developments where foreclosures have become more common than neighborhood cookouts. Each patch of dead grass is a reminder of the inescapable truth: many homes here, as they are elsewhere around the country, are worth half what they were just five years ago.        

 Desperate for a way out of a housing collapse that has crippled the region, officials in San Bernardino County, where Fontana is one of the largest cities, are exploring a drastic option — using eminent domain to buy up mortgages for homes that are underwater.

Then, the idea goes, the county could cut the mortgages to the current value of the homes and resell the mortgages to a private investment firm, which would allow homeowners to lower their monthly payments and hang onto their property.