Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Obama Administration Launches Housing Plan

The Wall Street Journal - WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration Wednesday unveiled key guidelines for its housing market rescue plan that should enable loan servicers to immediately start modifying eligible mortgages.

Two weeks ago, the president laid out a clear path forward to helping up to 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages to a payment that is affordable now and into the future," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday in a statement. "Today, we are providing servicers with the details they need to begin helping eligible borrowers."

The administration's new housing rescue effort includes a program aimed at reducing the amount homeowners owe per month. Under the program, the lender will have to first reduce monthly payments on mortgages so that the borrowers' monthly mortgage payment is no greater than 38% of his or her income. The program will then match further reductions in monthly payments dollar-for dollar from 38% down to 31% debt-to-income ratio for the borrower.

The modified payments will be kept in place for five years and the loan rate will be capped for the life of the loan, Treasury said in technical documents provided Wednesday morning. After five years, "the interest rate can be gradually stepped-up by 1% per year to the conforming loan survey rate in place at the time of the modification."

Treasury said that in order to reach that 31% debt-to-income ratio level, interest payments will first be reduced down to as low as 2%.

Meanwhile, servicers will receive an upfront fee of $1,000 for each eligible modification meeting guidelines established under this initiative. Servicers will also receive "pay for success" fees, as long as the borrower is successful at staying in the program, of $1,000 each year for three years, said Treasury.

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