The Obama administration plans to announce programs to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, including subsidies for borrowers who owe more than their home is worth.
The plan, to be unveiled today, would expand Treasury Department and Federal Housing Administration programs and use funds from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to two administration officials. The administration faced a week of criticism from lawmakers and watchdog groups who say the government hasn’t helped enough homeowners stave off foreclosure.
“It’s almost like a triage policy,” said Eric Barden, chief investment officer of Barden Capital Management in Austin, Texas. “It limits the losses of the most overvalued properties and it also limits the losses to the borrowers that are in the most distress.”
The new plan would increase payments to lenders that modify second mortgages, an official said. Banks’ unwillingness to write down second liens has helped block efforts to prevent foreclosures, said Josh Rosner, managing director at Graham, Fisher & Co. The Washington Post reported earlier on the administration’s plan.
The administration will propose allowing more mortgages to be refinanced into FHA guarantee programs if the borrower is current on the loan, one of the officials said. The lender would have to cut the amount owed by at least 10 percent to less than the value of the home. The first and second mortgages combined would have to be no more than 115 percent of the home’s value.
“Banks continue to carry second liens on their books at vastly inflated value,” Rosner said. “If the government reduced their ability to overinflate these assets, the banks would be more willing to engage in principal reductions.”
The Treasury would help unemployed homeowners reduce mortgage payments for at least three months while they look for work, the officials said. If homeowners don’t find a job in that time, or if they find a new job at a lower salary, they will be evaluated for further assistance.