Mayor Nutter gladly accepted the gift of good news today as the U.S. Conference of Mayors lauded city leaders for their program to stave off mortgage foreclosures.

The city's Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Program - forged in a unique spirit of cooperation between politicians, the courts, banks and housing advocates - has become a national model for keeping people in their homes.

Over 200 cities submitted applications for the 2009 City Livability Award, sponsored by Waste Management Inc., and today the national association of city mayors bestowed the Outstanding Achievement Award on Philadelphia, one of four such awards given out to cities of 100,000 or more population.

The city of Charleston, S.C., won the First Place award for an innovative program that turns troubled youths into entrepreneurs.

The Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Program has saved about 1,800 homes from foreclosure, with 3,500 homeowners still in the process, according to the city.

Its premise is simple - require that any foreclosure be preceded by a face-to-face meeting between the lender and the homeowner. The city aggressively promotes the program, with housing advocates knocking on 9,000 doors, and public service messages bearing the foreclosure Save Your Home Philly Hotline, 215-334-HOME (4663).

Joining Nutter at a City Hall ceremony today were City Council members Marian B. Tasco - who first sounded the alarm on subprime lending nine years ago - and Curtis Jones Jr.; Common Pleas Judge Annette M. Rizzo, housing counselors and advocates.

"He brought us all together and said, 'Let's work this out,' " Jones said of Nutter. "Every now and then, City Council, the administration, the courts, the advocates, the administrators get it right, and today is one such time."

Terry Gillen, executive director of the city's Redevelopment Authority, said that the program can only provide "a partial solution to a national problem."

"In the end there's a lot of national policy that has to happen in order to make what we're doing permanent," Gillen said. "Because we all realize we've got our finger in the dike, and we're holding on for dear life to stop this problem."

Contact staff writer Jeff Shields at 215-854-4565 or jshields@phillynews.com.