A Crisis of Missed Opportunities? Foreclosure Costs and Mortgage Modification During the Great Recession


This paper investigates the housing and broader economic effects of the 2000s crisisperiod California Foreclosure Prevention Laws (CFPLs). The CFPLs encouraged lenders to modify mortgage loans by increasing the required time and pecuniary costs of foreclosure. We find that the CFPLs prevented 380,000 California foreclosures, equivalent to a 16% reduction during the treatment period. These effects did not reverse after the conclusion of the policy, implying that the CFPLs were not a stopgap measure that simply pushed foreclosures further into the future. Our most conservative results show that these policies increased house prices by 6 percent and in doing so created $300 billion of housing wealth. Findings further indicate that gains in housing wealth translated into increased durable consumption as measured by auto sales. Disaggregated county and zip-code level estimates reveal that the CFPL house price increases were markedly higher in the hard hit areas of Southern California. Altogether, results suggest that the CFPLs were substantially more effective than the US Government's HAMP Program in mitigating foreclosures and stabilizing housing markets.

Working Paper