WASHINGTON – CUNA economist Bill Hampel said he thinks homeowners will eventually see some TARP funds or other governmental relief dedicated to restructuring troubled mortgages; however, the issue is more complex than people realize, and as a result, finding a solution will be a slow go for government and industry officials.

“In theory, if a borrower is underwater, if they can reduce their mortgage balance to 100% loan to value, or reduce the payment to an affordable level, they’ll be okay,” Hampel said. “But what if you have someone who’s LTV is 110%, and they’re still perfectly capable of making payments? Or what about someone with 35% LTV, who can’t make the payment? Should these people receive assistance? It sounds better to rework rather than foreclose, but how to define who can afford their mortgage and who can’t is really difficult.”

Hampel said the problem is bigger than bad mortgages and consumers who lack financial discipline. For example, he said, many responsible, sure-bet borrowers have developed incapacitating or expensive health problems or have lost jobs since the day they signed their mortgage documents.

“It’s not just a case of the smart and well-behaved not having any problems, there’s a lot of luck involved, too,” he said.