Times Article on the Possible Use of Eminent Domain to Deal with Underwater Homes

Here.  The article describes the opposition from the industry to the plan–which includes threats not to make mortgage loans in the future in communities that use eminent domain to seize underwater home–and also discusses what happened in 2002 when the industry made good on such threats in response to a different law:

In 2002, the Georgia Legislature passed the toughest predatory-lending law in the country. Hailed as a victory for consumers, it was intended to prevent abusive practices like steering customers to high-interest loans. Lenders immediately started trying to dismantle the law, warning that the “good guys” would no longer make loans to people with poor credit.

Some lenders did pull out of the state, and two of the three ratings agencies said they could no longer rate Georgia loans for resale to investors because they could be sued under the law. The state banking commissioner estimated that the mortgage market shrank by 15 percent. The following year, after a nasty fight, lawmakers gutted the statute.

[Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association] officials point to this affair as proof that messing with housing finance can have ruinous effects. But it is an example that offers other lessons, too.

The loans that disappeared from the market after the law was passed were the same kinds of subprime loans that set off the foreclosure wave; conventional 30-year mortgages were not affected. The lenders whose departure was met with such alarm included Countrywide Financial, whose practices during the housing boom have cost billions in legal settlements.

In an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, experts concluded that had the law stayed intact, the housing crisis would have been less dire in the state, which became one of the hardest-hit. The article even implied that the whole country might have fared better, because “the Georgia drama also stemmed a tide of similar laws that were being considered in other states.”

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