The real estate sector in the US is in the dumps. For the last two years, unemployment is at an all-time high, prompting many to skip on mortgage payments. Banks are, therefore, taking over the properties. Subsequently, foreclosures have become common in American neighborhoods. Now the Federal and local governments have come up with many programs to save the homes of troubled owners. But how effective are these programs?

Take, for instance, the case of Christopher Hall. He was born and brought up in a two-storied house that belonged to his grandfather. His parents lived there too. However, when he lost his job with a contractor last year, he was unable to make the mortgage payments. Now it has been a year since he made the last payment to Bank of America. The bank has threatened to auction the property – something that left Hall devastated.

In a majority of US cities, that would have pulled the curtains on another story; on another foreclosure account. However, in Philadelphia, the story did not end here. Last year, the city had come up with a program that would let people stay on in their homes. In situations, where a home is being foreclosed, a “conciliation conference” is usually organized between the bank and the borrower. The objective is to come up with a workable solution. Hall, too, met a lawyer, Kristine A. Phillips, who told him that the bank would not disturb him for another one-and-a-half months. In this period, a counselor would try and revise his loans permanently. For Hall, the extra time, was like a heavenly feeling.

This program is like a model for other cities in a nation where foreclosures are rising fast and high like a high tide. Others like Chicago, Pittsburgh and Louisville are also adopting similar strategies.

In Philadelphia, the program works out like this. When a homeowner gets a legal notice of default, the court schedules a hearing between the lender and the homeowner. There are volunteers who are visiting people to tell them about their rights to seek conciliation. These volunteers are also informing homeowners how they can get counselors on the hotline.

Anna Hargrove, who is a canvasser, says that people are relieved just to know that they have someone to talk to. She says that sometimes deals are negotiated where the borrower has to make lower monthly payments. In other cases the borrower exits gracefully.

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