Fannie and Freddie suspend foreclosures

By halting evictions, the mortgage giants get time to implement a recent rescue plan.

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By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have directed their network of servicers to halt all foreclosure and eviction proceedings between Nov. 26 2008 and Jan. 9, 2009, meant to give a recently announced rescue plan time to work.

The Streamlined Modification Program, set to launch Dec. 15, enables delinquent borrowers to get a modified mortgage that lowers payments to no more than 38% of their gross incomes.

"By delaying these foreclosure sales, the nation's servicers will have the opportunity to work with more borrowers who could qualify for a modification under the new [program]," said Freddie Mac CEO David M. Moffett in a statement.

Freddie has told its servicers to immediately contact the 6,000 borrowers who already have auction sales or evictions scheduled for between the specified dates to tell them the sales are postponed. Fannie estimated that 10,000 of its borrowers will be affected. Borrowers facing eviction between Nov. 20 and Nov. 26 were not expected to get relief.

The foreclosure suspension affects only a small percentage of homeowners facing foreclosure over the next two months. Although Fannie and Freddie mortgages account for more than half of all mortgages, they have relatively few of the most risky subprime loans at the center of the foreclosure crisis.

"The vast majority of what's going into foreclosure are not Fannie Freddie loans," said Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German.

The Fannie, Freddie plan was unveiled on Nov. 11. 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.

The mortgage rate could be lowered to as little as 3% for five years. After that, it would increase by 1 percentage point a year until it hits either the market rate or the original interest rate, whichever is lower.

Unlike previous federal efforts, participation by servicers is not voluntary.

Several major servicers -- including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup -- have recently announced expansions of their foreclosure prevention efforts, which could aid nearly a million more borrowers.  To top of page

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