The Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Treasury released the February edition of the Obama Administration's Housing Scorecard on Friday. The Scorecard is essentially a summary of data on housing and housing finance released by public and private sources over the previous month and/or quarter. Most of the data such as new and existing home sales, permits and starts, mortgage originations, and various house price evaluations have been previously covered by MND.
As an overview, the report says that the data for February shows "some promising signs of stability" although the overall outlook is mixed and there is continued fragility in home prices. Mortgage delinquencies are still declining and are well below the levels of a year ago. Sales of existing homes have started out the year at the strongest levels since 2007.
There has been some progress with the housing overhang. The supply of homes on the market continued to decline in February and there is now a 6.1 month supply at the current rate of sales. The inventory of new homes is even lower at 5.6 months, the lowest since 2006. However, despite existing home sales reaching the highest level since May 2010, home prices changed little from the previous month, marking a fifth month of seasonal lows.
HUD Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic said of the scorecard, "The data this month show that we're making important progress in providing relief to homeowners under the Obama Administration's programs. With fewer borrowers falling behind on their mortgages and some 425,000 families taking advantage of our enhanced Home Affordable Refinance Program - standing to save on average $2,500 per year - it's clear that the Administration's efforts continue to provide significant positive benefits. But 1 in 5 Americans still owes more than their home is worth. That's why the Administration's recent proposals are critical to promoting healing in the market. Our efforts to ramp up economic development in fragile neighborhoods and to expand homeowner access to low-interest refinance options reflect our commitment to turning these markets towards growth. That is why we are asking the Congress to approve the President's housing proposals so that more homeowners can receive assistance."
Each month the Scorecard spotlights a different housing market and the current edition focuses on market strength in Chicago, Illinois and its surrounding communities. The Chicago metro area was one of the hardest hit areas in the nation following the housing market downturn and HUD says the Administration has been active in trying to stabilize the market. Its efforts, the Scorecard says, have helped more than 220,000 families in the area avoid foreclosure.
Sales of bank-owned properties and short sales remain high at 35 percent of sales in the market compared to 29 percent nationally which leads to continued weakness in local prices. Foreclosure processing takes an average of 575 days so properties stay in the pipeline 50 percent longer on average than in other cities.
Illinois has received more than $400 million through the Hardest Hit Fund and approximately $265 million has been awarded to 12 jurisdictions through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to help purchase or redevelop residential properties and address the effects of abandoned and foreclosed housing. Both programs have helped provide stability to the Chicago housing market.
The Housing Scorecard usually incorporates by reference the monthly report of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and related remediation programs. That report however is now issued bi-monthly and not yet available for February.