World

1 in 10 Americans delinquent in paying mortgage

New statistics indicate one in 10 American homeowners is now delinquent by at least one mortgage payment and one in seven is now either delinquent or in foreclosure.

New statistics indicate one in 10 American homeowners is now delinquent by at least one mortgage payment and one in seven is now either delinquent or in foreclosure.

Jerome Williams of Washington, D.C., used to own his little house outright. It took him three jobs, but he did it. "Everything I was doing was working out well," he told CBC's The National in an interview.

But, like a lot of Americans, he took out one mortgage, and then another, and then another. He basically used his house as an ATM, and now, he owes more than his home is worth: $230,000 US.

He also lost two of his three jobs, which leaves him lots of time to stare at bank demands for $6,600 — three missed payments. "Just three months, and I can't catch it up," he said.

Williams's story is not uncommon these days as American homeowners by the millions just keep slipping under water.

"It's just a horror show in the housing market," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's.

And economists say it's no longer just a matter of people with bad credit who signed foolish loans. After 8.2 million job losses in two years, this nightmare has spread like a virus.

"People who aren't receiving a paycheque can't make a mortgage payment," said Michael Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers' Association.

That means more waves of foreclosures, and even lower housing prices, which means less spending, which in turn means more job loss.

"People lose their jobs, and of course they go into foreclosure and then you're off and running in this very, very dark cycle," said Zandi.

The government has tried fixes. People have lined up for Washington's cash rebates, but attempts to help those facing foreclosure have largely failed.

Williams see bankers being rescued, but not those who really need the help. "Here I am. I…got no help at all. Yet…I'm right at the brink, living day to day. But come on, you know?"

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama isn't as activist as it once was and two years into the recession, government help is drying up.

Even Obama, the great optimist himself, is now warning this might be what he calls a double-dip recession.