Homeowners should’ve gotten more help back in 2008. At least that’s become the consensus among economists in the decade since the financial crash and subsequent foreclosure crisis. It’s also why Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike came together to protect struggling homeowners by creating a COVID hardship forbearance program, which allowed mortgage borrowers to pause their payments, in March 2020.

But on Sept. 30 the expanded mortgage forbearance program will finally begin its wind down—something that will have far-reaching effects on the broader economy and the housing market. There’s never been a forbearance wind down like this, making the consequences all the more uncertain.

At its height, the program protected 7.2 million homeowners. As the economy improved—with the unemployment rate falling from nearly 15% in April 2020 to 5.2% as of Aug. 2021—the number of borrowers in the program dropped, too. Now, there are just

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