The plan centers on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which between them own or back about 31 million mortgages worth a combined $5 trillion. The federal government took over the firms in September due to mounting losses on their portfolios of mortgages.The Washington Post has more details:
Eligibility is determined by several factors: Homeowners must be 90 days or more late in their mortgage payments, owe at least 90% of their home's current value, live in the home on which the mortgage was taken and have not filed for bankruptcy.
Their mortgage payments would be adjusted through lower interest rates or longer repayment schedules with the goal of bringing payments below 38% of monthly household income. Interest rates could be lowered for five years and then raised to a predetermined level. Loan terms could be lengthened to 40 years.
Officials said the standards for loan modifications should fast-track changes in payments. The standards will be applied to loans owned and guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie, but officials said they hope they will also be adopted industrywide.
"We expect that it could significantly increase the number of modifications completed," said James Lockhart, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator that oversees Fannie and Freddie. ...
Fannie reported this week that 1.7% of its mortgages by value are delinquent by 90 or more days. Fannie's filings suggest that it has about 18 million mortgages on its books, which would work out to about 300,000 mortgages that could potentially be eligible. ...
But even in cases where declining home prices have taken the value of a home to less than is owed on the mortgage, the balance of the loan will not be lowered under this program.
"This is not loan forgiveness; the loans will be paid but at terms affordable for borrowers," said Brian Montgomery, commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration.
The fact that mortgage balances will not be reduced for the so-called underwater mortgages — those in which a homeowner owes more than the home is worth — will limit the use and impact of the program, according to some experts.
Instead of the standard cumbersome loan modification process, which can include reviewing a borrower's credit report and tax returns, the new plan focuses on the borrower's income and how much he or she can afford to pay. It also creates a formula for determining what a homeowner can afford, eliminating some guesswork.When I first read that this program is only available to people 90 days delinquent or more, I though it would reward irresponsible behavior. (If you pay your mortgage, you don't get help.) The criteria that the homeowner must "provide proof that he has suffered a hardship, such as losing a job" may prevent this plan from rewarding irresponsible homeowners. However, it may also dramatically reduce the number of financially-troubled people who can take advantage of the program.
Government officials said they expect the effort, dubbed the Streamlined Modification Program, to be able to help "hundreds of thousands" of homeowners. ...
The program, set to begin Dec. 15, applies only to mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are involved with more than 50 percent of residential loans. But major lenders, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup, have agreed to apply the formula to loans they administer for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and are expected to extend it to their own loans, industry officials said. ...
A borrower who is 90 days delinquent will be eligible for a new loan with a payment that does not exceed 38 percent of his gross monthly income.
To qualify, the homeowner must provide proof that he has suffered a hardship, such as losing a job, that made it impossible to keep up with payments. The terms of the borrower's loan then could be extended from 30 years to 40 years, and if that is not enough, the interest rate could be reduced to as low as 3 percent to make the payments more affordable. The homeowner could be subject to a interest rate increase after a set time, depending on how low their new interest rate is. If those options don't reduce payments enough, part of the principal owed on the loan could be deferred until the end of the loan term.
Of the various loan modification options available, extending the mortgage to a 40-year mortgage is the least objectionable, because it doesn't give the homeowner free money. It just reduces their payments, while slowing the pace at which they will (eventually) acquire equity in their home. Reducing the interest rate or reducing the principal on a loan effectively gives free money to homeowners, so I generally oppose them.
CNN Money points out that this plan doesn't help most subprime homeowners, who are the people in the most financial trouble.