Pittsburgh knows a thing or two about how to help when the chips are down.
The Allegheny County sheriff, whose office is required by law to sell off properties when debts on them can't be paid, successfully lobbied the court last year for a program that buys time and flexibility for homeowners facing foreclosure. It hasn't stopped sheriff's sales, but it has headed off more than a few.
In that same spirit, PNC Financial Services Group, the nation's fifth-largest bank, said Tuesday that it would join other institutions in suspending home foreclosures on customers until the federal government's rescue for embattled mortgage borrowers begins. Among others that have declared moratoriums are Citizens Financial Group, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and the government-backed finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The idea is aimed at helping to keep as many homeowners in their homes as possible. While the plan won't save every mortgage delinquent, the forbearance it provides will be a boon to some -- and when people have an opportunity to pay their debts and keep their properties, it's good for them and good for their neighborhood.
The moratorium by PNC and its newly acquired National City Mortgage will give customers time to take advantage of the bank's loan modification program for distressed mortgage holders. It includes reduced rate options, extended payback terms and other assistance. PNC has even increased the number of staff assigned to these programs.
While residential foreclosures have shot up around the nation, they were actually down last year in Allegheny County -- dropping from 2,669 in 2007 to 2,358. Some of that has to be due to progressive moves like the sheriff's that give distressed borrowers not only information on how to save their homes, but also time. For PNC and other banks to join the effort makes it all the better.
First published on February 20, 2009