White House to announce more foreclosure help

Chris Rizo Nov. 28, 2009, 11:50pm

Barack Obama (D)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-The White House on Monday plans to announce additional help for Americans having trouble making their home mortgage payments, something long called for by several state attorneys general.

Under a new program, the federal government will work with lenders to offer struggling homebuyers assistance. The plan calls for greater transparency and accountability on the part of loan servicers, Treasury Department spokeswoman Meg Reilly said.

Delinquent borrowers taking part in the program will be put into trial modifications for several months to make sure they can make the new payments and to give them time to submit their financial paperwork.

Borrowers who qualify for a long-term modification can keep making the lower payments for five years. At that point, the interest rate will be locked at the rate at the time of the adjustment, which would be about 5 percent today.

Mortgage lenders that agree to lower payments collect $1,000 initially from the government for each loan modified, followed by $1,000 annually for up to three years.

The plan is aimed at kick starting the Obama administration's $75 billion loan modification plan, which officials had hoped would help about 4 million delinquent homeowners this year.

But so far, only about 650,000 people have had their mortgage payments temporarily adjusted, while only a fraction of those have received permanent modifications.

White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told the New York Times that White House officials will tweak the program as the administration sees the need.

"We will not be satisfied until more program participants are transitioning from trial to permanent modifications," Psaki was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

For their part, state attorneys general, including Democrat Terry Goddard of Arizona and Republican Rob McKenna of Washington have called on the White House to be more aggressive in helping Americans at risk of losing their homes.

As of Sept. 1, about 1 percent of all trial mortgage adjustments were made permanent after three months, according to the Congressional Oversight Panel, which monitors the Treasury Department's bailout funds.

The combined percentage of loans in foreclosure or at least one payment past due was 14.4 percent in the third-quarter, the highest percentage ever reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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