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Mortgage Borrowers’ Use of COVID-19 Forbearance Programs


  • Lara Loewenstein
  • Bezankeng Njinju


The guarantee of mortgage forbearance provided in the CARES Act is an unprecedented provision of flexibility for government-insured mortgage borrowers and has been successful thus far at limiting delinquencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The terms of this forbearance are favorable to borrowers, and there is little required in terms of documentation of hardship, making requesting forbearance an attractive option even if borrowers are not facing hardship and do not need forbearance to remain current on a mortgage. Despite this, evidence indicates that so far CARES Act forbearance has largely been used by borrowers who did actually need it. The success of forbearance in providing households liquidity and in reducing mortgage delinquencies, and its many potential benefits relative to foreclosure in terms of aligning incentives among the borrower, lender, and neighboring homeowners, raises questions for how policymakers should approach mortgage policy during the next economic downturn and about how mortgage contracts are designed.

Suggested Citation

  • Lara Loewenstein & Bezankeng Njinju, 2022. "Mortgage Borrowers’ Use of COVID-19 Forbearance Programs," Economic Commentary, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, vol. 2022(11), pages 1-7, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcec:94633
    DOI: 10.26509/frbc-ec-202211

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Peter Ganong & Pascal J. Noel, 2020. "Why Do Borrowers Default on Mortgages?," NBER Working Papers 27585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Therese C. Scharlemann & Stephen H. Shore, 2016. "The Effect of Negative Equity on Mortgage Default: Evidence From HAMP’s Principal Reduction Alternative," The Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 29(10), pages 2850-2883.
    3. Christopher L. Foote & Jeffrey C. Fuhrer & Eileen Mauskopf & Paul S. Willen, 2009. "A proposal to help distressed homeowners: a government payment-sharing plan," Public Policy Brief, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    4. W. Scott Frame, 2010. "Estimating the effect of mortgage foreclosures on nearby property values: a critical review of the literature," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, vol. 95(3).
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