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7,350 in Mass. get $510m in mortgage aid

Massachusetts mortgage borrowers received about $510 million in mortgage help last year as part of a multistate settlement with five major US banks, according to a report released Thursday.

The Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight said 7,350 borrowers here got $69,456 each in mortgage assistance, on average, between March 1 and Dec. 31. The North Carolina-based office is charged with monitoring the accord reached between lenders and state attorneys­ general.

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Nationwide, 529,275 homeowners have received more than $42.3 billion in help as part of the agreement, averaging about $80,000 per homeowner, settlement monitor Joseph A. Smith Jr. said.

Assistance is offered in various forms, including principal forgiveness, refinancing, and short sales, a process that allows a borrower to sell a property for less than the value of the mortgage.

“I believe we have made progress,” Smith said. “But I know from my regular conversations with advocates across the nation that the banks and I have much more work to do on behalf of borrowers.”

The federal report comes about a year after the $25 billion accord with the country’s top lenders was reached to settle allegations about so-called robosigning: claims that mortgage employees of lenders routinely signed foreclosure documents without reading or properly reviewing the paperwork.

The lenders include Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citibank, and Ally Financial Inc., owner of GMAC Mortgage.

Attorney General Martha Coakley called the numbers encouraging and said the aid will boost efforts to re- duce foreclosures.

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Smith said that although banks have provided more than $40 billion in aid nationwide, the amount can not be counted as a dollar-for-dollar payback toward their financial obligations because resources they allocate to short sales and other programs are not credited the same way.

Last week, Smith said that Ally Financial had satisfied its obligations under the settlement — offering $257 million to struggling homeowners across the United States. In Massachusetts, Ally has provided more than $17 million to 192 borrowers, averaging $88,994 each, according to the monitor’s report.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley called the numbers encouraging and said the assistance will boost efforts to reduce foreclosures and stabilize the housing market.

Massachusetts homeowners probably received less financial help on average than those nationwide because home values dropped less in the state than in some other parts of the country, agency staff said.

The new assessment follows other reports showing the state’s foreclosure crisis appears to be ebbing. Last year, 7,424 borrowers had their properties seized by banks, a 13 percent drop compared with 2011, according to the Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks real estate.

In Jamaica Plain, foreclosure prevention counselor Virginia Pratt said that more troubled borrowers are receiving help from lenders, and often at a quicker pace.

Grace Ross is coordinator of a nonprofit advocacy group, the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending. While lauding the national settlement assistance, she also noted that by reducing principal lenders are only bringing homes in line with actual values.

Almost 17 percent of borrowers in the Boston area hold mortgage loans that exceed the value of their homes, according to the Seattle-based real estate company Zillow Inc.

“Mostly, this is the industry paying itself for values that no loner exist in these homes,’’ Ross said. “It is something, but we need a lot more.”

Jenifer B. McKim
can be reached at
jmckim@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @jbmckim.
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