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In the world of foreclosures, unemployment is the new subprime loan.

When the foreclosure crisis first erupted, the culprit seemed clear: risky adjustable rate mortgages. Recently, that trend has subsided.

“One of the shifts that’s happened in the last six weeks is the predatory loans have shifted to reduced income problems,” Marian Siegel of Housing Counseling Services told me last month. Siegel’s group, located in Adams Morgan, advises people threatened with home foreclosure.

Siegel also delivered another prescient line during our interview: Whatever trend I’m seeing in my office, I read about it next week in the newspaper.

See this morning’s Washington Post for proof:

During the first three months of this year, the largest share of foreclosures shifted from subprime loans to prime loans, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The change to prime loans — traditionally considered safer — reflects the growing numbers of unemployed who are being caught up in the foreclosure process, economists say.

Some experts have suggested that unemployed homeowners should be able to lower their payments for a set time while they look for work:

Many housing experts say it will take more than the $75 billion the administration has already said will be spent on foreclosure prevention. Several economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston have proposed creating a government lending or grant program for unemployed borrowers, lowering their payments for up to two years while they look for work. Such a program could cost $25 billion annually and help 3 million homeowners, lowering their payments by 50 percent on average, according to the economists’ proposal.

Image by Andrew Ciscel, Flickr Creative Commons