February 18, 2009

Obama's New Plan For Troubled Homeowners-With Comments

Obama’s Plan Aimed at Helping Troubled Homeowners
Here’s the summary of the Obama administration’s plan aimed at helping Distressed Homeowners

Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan

Executive Summary

The deep contraction in the economy and in the housing market has created devastating consequences for homeowners and communities throughout the country.

· Millions of responsible families who make their monthly payments and fulfill their obligations have seen their property values fall, and are now unable to refinance at lower mortgage rates.

· Millions of workers have lost their jobs or had their hours cut back, are now struggling to stay current on their mortgage payments – with nearly 6 million households facing possible foreclosure.

· Neighborhoods are struggling, as each foreclosed home reduces nearby property values by as much as 9 percent.

1. Refinancing for Up to 4 to 5 Million Responsible Homeowners to Make Their Mortgages More Affortdable

2. A $75 Billion Homeowner Stability Initiative to Reach Up to 3 to 4 Million At-Risk Homeowners

3. Supporting Low Mortgage Rages by Strengthening Confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan is part of the President’s broad, comprehensive strategy to get the economy back on track. The plan will help up to 7 to 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure. In doing so, the plan not only helps responsible homeowners on the verge of defaulting, but prevents neighborhoods and communities from being pulled over the edge too, as defaults and foreclosures contribute to falling home values, failing local businesses, and lost jobs. The key components of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan are:

1. Affordability: Provide Access to Low-Cost Refinancing for Responsible Homeowners Suffering From Falling Home Prices

· Enabling Up to 4 to 5 Million Responsible Homeowners to Refinance: Mortgage rates are currently at historically low levels, providing homeowners with the opportunity to reduce their monthly payments by refinancing. But under current rules, most families who owe more than 80 percent of the value of their homes have a difficult time refinancing. Yet millions of responsible homeowners who put money down and made their mortgage payments on time have – through no fault of their own – seen the value of their homes drop low enough to make them unable to access these lower rates. As a result, the Obama Administration is announcing a new program that will help as many as 4 to 5 million responsible homeowners who took out conforming loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance through those two institutions.

· Reducing Monthly Payments: For many families, a low-cost refinancing could reduce mortgage payments by thousands of dollars per year:

o Consider a family that took out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $207,000 with an interest rate of 6.50% on a house worth $260,000 at the time. Today, that family has about $200,000 remaining on their mortgage, but the value of that home has fallen 15 percent to $221,000 – making them ineligible for today’s low interest rates that now generally require the borrower to have 20 percent home equity. Under this refinancing plan, that family could refinance to a rate near 5.16% – reducing their annual payments by over $2,300.

2. Stability: Create A $75 Billion Homeowner Stability Initiative to Reach Up to 3 to 4 Million At-Risk Homeowners

· Helping Hard-Pressed Homeowners Stay in their Homes: This initiative is intended to reach millions of responsible homeowners who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments because of the current recession, yet cannot sell their homes because prices have fallen so significantly. Millions of hard-working families have seen their mortgage payments rise to 40 or even 50 percent of their monthly income – particularly those who received subprime and exotic loans with exploding terms and hidden fees. The Homeowner Stability Initiative helps those who commit to make reasonable monthly mortgage payments to stay in their homes – providing families with security and neighborhoods with stability.

· No Aid for Speculators: This initiative will go solely to helping homeowners who commit to make payments to stay in their home – it will not aid speculators or house flippers.

· Protecting Neighborhoods: This plan will also help to stabilize home prices for all homeowners in a neighborhood. When a home goes into foreclosure, the entire neighborhood is hurt. The average homeowner could see his or her home value stabilized against declines in price by as much as $6,000 relative to what it would otherwise be absent the Homeowner Stability Initiative.

· Providing Support for Responsible Homeowners: Because loan modifications are more likely to succeed if they are made before a borrower misses a payment, the plan will include households at risk of imminent default despite being current on their mortgage payments.

· Providing Loan Modifications to Bring Monthly Payments to Sustainable Levels: The Homeowner Stability Initiative has a simple goal: reduce the amount homeowners owe per month to sustainable levels. Using money allocated under the Financial Stability Plan and the full strength of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this program has several key components:

§ A Shared Effort to Reduce Monthly Payments: For a sample household with payments adding up to 43 percent of his monthly income, the lender would first be responsible for bringing down interest rates so that the borrower’s monthly mortgage payment is no more than 38 percent of his or her income. Next, the initiative would match further reductions in interest payments dollar-for-dollar with the lender to bring that ratio down to 31 percent. If that borrower had a $220,000 mortgage, that could mean a reduction in monthly payments by over $400. That lower interest rate must be kept in place for five years, after which it could gradually be stepped up to the conforming loan rate in place at the time of the modification. Lenders will also be able to bring down monthly payments by reducing the principal owed on the mortgage, with Treasury sharing in the costs.

§ “Pay for Success” Incentives to Servicers: Servicers will receive an up-front fee of $1,000 for each eligible modification meeting guidelines established under this initiative. They will also receive “pay for success” fees – awarded monthly as long as the borrower stays current on the loan – of up to $1,000 each year for three years.

§ Incentives to Help Borrowers Stay Current: To provide an extra incentive for borrowers to keep paying on time, the initiative will provide a monthly balance reduction payment that goes straight towards reducing the principal balance of the mortgage loan. As long as a borrower stays current on his or her loan, he or she can get up to $1,000 each year for five years.

§ Reaching Borrowers Early: To keep lenders focused on reaching borrowers who are trying their best to stay current on their mortgages, an incentive payment of $500 will be paid to servicers, and an incentive payment of $1,500 will be paid to mortgage holders, if they modify at-risk loans before the borrower falls behind.

§ Home Price Decline Reserve Payments: To encourage lenders to modify more mortgages and enable more families to keep their homes, the Administration — together with the FDIC — has developed an innovative partial guarantee initiative. The insurance fund – to be created by the Treasury Department at a size of up to $10 billion – will be designed to discourage lenders from opting to foreclose on mortgages that could be viable now out of fear that home prices will fall even further later on. Holders of mortgages modified under the program would be provided with an additional insurance payment on each modified loan, linked to declines in the home price index.

· Institute Clear and Consistent Guidelines for Loan Modifications: Treasury will develop uniform guidance for loan modifications across the mortgage industry, working closely with the bank agencies and building on the FDIC’s pioneering work. The Guidelines will be used for the Administration’s new foreclosure prevention plan. Moreover, all financial institutions receiving Financial Stability Plan financial assistance going forward will be required to implement loan modification plans consistent with Treasury Guidance. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will use these guidelines for loans that they own or guarantee, and the Administration will work with regulators and other federal and state agencies to implement these guidelines across the entire mortgage market. The agencies will seek to apply these guidelines when permissible and appropriate to all loans owned or guaranteed by the federal government, including those owned or guaranteed by Ginnie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration, Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Agriculture.

· Other Comprehensive Measures to Reduce Foreclosure and Strengthen Communities

§ Require Strong Oversight, Reporting and Quarterly Meetings with Treasury, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve and HUD to Monitor Performance

§ Allow Judicial Modifications of Home Mortgages During Bankruptcy for Borrowers Who Have Run Out of Options

§ Provide $1.5 Billion in Relocation and Other Forms of Assistance to Renters Displaced by Foreclosure and $2 Billion in Neighborhood Stabilization Funds

§ Improve the Flexibility of Hope for Homeowners and Other FHA Programs to Modify and Refinance At-Risk Borrowers

3. Supporting Low Mortgage Rates By Strengthening Confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:

· Ensuring Strength and Security of the Mortgage Market: Today, using funds already authorized in 2008 by Congress for this purpose, the Treasury Department is increasing its funding commitment to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure the strength and security of the mortgage market and to help maintain mortgage affordability.

o Provide Forward-Looking Confidence: The increased funding will enable Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to carry out ambitious efforts to ensure mortgage affordability for responsible homeowners, and provide forward-looking confidence in the mortgage market.

o Treasury is increasing its Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements to $200 billion each from their original level of $100 billion each.

· Promoting Stability and Liquidity: In addition, the Treasury Department will continue to purchase Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities to promote stability and liquidity in the marketplace.

· Increasing The Size of Mortgage Portfolios: To ensure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can continue to provide assistance in addressing problems in the housing market, Treasury will also be increasing the size of the GSEs’ retained mortgage portfolios allowed under the agreements – by $50 billion to $900 billion – along with corresponding increases in the allowable debt outstanding.

· Support State Housing Finance Agencies: The Administration will work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support state housing finance agencies in serving homebuyers.

· No EESA or Financial Stability Plan Money: The $200 billion in funding commitments are being made under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act and do not use any money from the Financial Stability Plan or Emergency Economic Stabilization Act/TARP.

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Report offensive comments to washwire@wsj.com
For my own situation, if I may. What happens to someone, like me, who bought a home 3 years ago on a 5 year adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and now because all the equity I had in my home ($130,000) is gone.. in less than 2 years I will be forced to foreclose because I am upside in my mortgage and no one will touch me for a refinance??

Comment by Peter V Hoelen - February 18, 2009 at 9:56 am
So let me see if I have this correct: I (the taxpayer who was not greedy enough to get suckered into over-extending myself on debt) will be paying on the equity for millions of those folks who did get themselves into trouble. So now they can own their own home faster than I can own mine, because they’re also using my money — and it will now be harder to pay my own bills since I’ll be paying much higher taxes. How fair and equitable can you get?

Comment by Old School - February 18, 2009 at 10:14 am
What happens to someone who bought a stock portfolio three years ago with floating rate financing and 20% haircut and now due to stock prices falling is upside down on the portfolio and cannot get refinancing for the portfolio?

Comment by AKS - February 18, 2009 at 10:15 am
Well, that’s a tough call Peter. However, what about people like me? I have been renting a place for the past 5 years and saving dilligently because I knew I could not afford a house. Now, the government takes my money and helps someone who has been living in a mansion they could not afford. Government says that this will help communities but how does it really help me? My rent stays the same no matter what and I do not care if all houses are worth $10. Renters and responsible savers are being screwed the most on this deal.

Comment by Mike - February 18, 2009 at 10:15 am
What about retirees who have lost half their savings in the market, and want to refinance to lower their mortgage payment, even if they aren’t in imminent danger of default….

Are we going to raise our taxes to pay for all of this too?

Comment by Reality - February 18, 2009 at 10:15 am
Hey Old School…

You’re not going to be paying for it. You tax dollars (even the future payments) have already been spent. It’s your kids and grandkids that will be on the hook for this one.

Comment by Sucker - February 18, 2009 at 10:18 am
I couldn’t afford a home for the past 5 years so I did not buy. Now I am supposed to pay for all those who did buy but could not afford? Lies and corruption.

Comment by neal - February 18, 2009 at 10:18 am
That’s a tad over $8,000 per borrower. Just about the same amount as the first time homebuyer credit. Nice symmetry.

So, if someone bought a $250,000 house with a $250,000 mortgage with a payment adjusted down to the borrowers 28% income ratio based upon an annual income of say $43,000 for the first 3 years then even after the negative amortization the government could subsidize the fully amortizing new payment of about $400 for about 20 months in hopes that the borrowers income grows to a level that could support the full payment or the value of the house increases to a level above the original price to allow it to be sold at breakeven.

So, we have about 20 months of reprieve.

Audacious Hope. Mine as well.


Comment by Martin - February 18, 2009 at 10:19 am
Say goodbye to the middle class.Thanks Obama!

Comment by Dan - February 18, 2009 at 10:22 am

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