At a town hall meeting, President Obama admitted that his administration's efforts to help homeowners were "not enough."
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The Obama administration has announced yet another initiative to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.
Earlier this week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it would extend the period of time unemployed homeowners with Federal Housing Authority-backed mortgages could skip or make smaller mortgage payments to a minimum of 12 months, up from a minimum of four.
The extension should help solve a persistent problem with FHA's existing forbearance program: Even though servicers of FHA-insured loans were able to offer borrowers longer grace periods before, most opted to limit offers to the minimum period of four months, an inadequate timeframe, according to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.
"Providing the option for a year of forbearance will give struggling homeowners a substantially greater chance of finding employment before they lose their home," he said. Under the program, borrowers are expected to make up the skipped payments once they return to work.
HUD's new mandate also applies to servicers in the Making Home Affordable program. However, the program will only affect a small number of the total of 4.6 million or so borrowers who are currently delinquent on their loans.
Last year, according to HUD, only about 17,000 borrowers were in the FHA's special forbearance program.
HUD's announcement comes at a time when the Obama administration is being roundly criticized for its response to the housing crisis. Under the microscope, are a series of programs and initiatives aimed at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure that have fallen far short of their initial goals. In a town hall meeting this week, President Obama conceded that his administration has failed to provide enough support to homeowners.
Here are some of the government's efforts thus far, and how they've fared:
Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)
Trial launch: March 2009
Borrowers affected: As of May 2011, there have been 1.85 million trial modification offers extended to borrowers since the program launched in March, 2009.
HAMP was a big early disappointment -- not only because it fell well short of initial promises to lower mortgage payments for 3 to 4 million borrowers but because so many of the borrowers who were issued modifications early on quickly re-defaulted on their loans.
Track record: The program's record has improved and re-default rates have dropped, but they're still troubling. As of March, more than 20% of all borrowers with HAMP modifications are at least two payments behind twelve months after their loans have been modified.
Only 633,000 borrowers have received permanent modifications and are still in those refinanced mortgages. That's compared to 756,000 trial modifications that have been cancelled, usually as a result of missed payments.
Still, there have been improvements, with borrowers earning permanent modifications more quickly and in higher percentages than before. The modifications have lowered borrowers' payments by an aggregate of $6.8 million, according to the Treasury Department.
Secretary Donovan also said yesterday that HAMP and other government foreclosure prevention programs have helped to create an infrastructure in which non-government mortgage modifications are processed. In fact, the number of non-HAMP modifications increased significantly in 2010 to 1.76 million.
Second Lien Modification Program (2MP)
Launch date: April 2009
Participation: 28,800 borrowers
The Second Lien Modification Program (or 2MP) provides assistance to homeowners who have a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit in addition to their primary mortgage.
Many potential mortgage modifications have run into roadblocks because lenders of home equity loans and lines of credit refuse to cooperate. After all, the first mortgage holder typically gets paid first when an underwater mortgage gets modified and there's often nothing left for the second lien holder.
Yet, second lien holders have to agree to a mortgage modification -- and to take a loss -- before a loan can be refinanced. Under 2MP, the government pays cash incentives to the lenders of the second loans so they will allow the refinancing to proceed.
Track record: So far, only 1,524 borrowers have had their second mortgages fully extinguished by their second loan lenders, with an additional 26,000 receiving a reduction in their principal. That's a far cry from the estimated one million or more that the program was created to help.
The average amount involved is more than $65,000 for a full elimination of a loan balance and about $6,000 for a partial elimination.
Hardest Hit States Fund
Launch date: February, 2010
The Obama administration set aside $7.6 billion in funding for states that were hit hardest by the economic downturn to be used toward foreclosure prevention.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia currently participate in the program and each state can spend the money on programs they determine best meet the needs of their residents.
Since the funding was allocated, all of the states have now implemented their programs, according to Andrea Risotto, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department.
The states have directed about 70% of their funds toward programs that help homeowners who've lost their jobs, she said. Another 20% is being used to reduce mortgage principal for borrowers deep underwater. Much of the rest will go toward outreach and foreclosure counseling and prevention programs.
Track record: Too soon to tell. The Treasury does not aggregate data and the states have not produced full reports yet. Risotto said, though, there's been a big uptick in the number of servicers volunteering to participate in the program.
Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA)
Launch date: April, 2010
All HAFA agreements started: 17,781
Aimed at borrowers who are underwater on their mortgages and who've been denied a modification via HAMP, HAFA was supposed to be a last-ditch effort to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. They still, however, lose their homes.
The program pays cash to both the borrower and lender to encourage a short sale, a deal in which the bank accepts the proceeds of the home sale as full repayment of the mortgage debt, forgiving any loss.
The program includes deeds-in-lieu, which are agreements in which the bank takes back the home directly from the borrower as full repayment.
Track record: HAFA was also a disappointment, with few borrowers taking advantage of the program. Others who would have participated, were ineligible because they did not meet a 31% debt-to-income requirement for approval. Earlier this year, that requirement was lifted.
Principal Reduction Alternative (PRA)
Launch date: June 2010
Trial modifications started: 21,299
This program is for borrowers with loans that are not backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or insured by the FHA. It requires servicers to evaluate the benefit of reducing mortgage principal for loans in which the balance has exceeded the value of the home by 15% or more.
Loan servicers are not required to reduce the principal, just to consider doing so. The mortgages may be ones in the HAMP program.
Track record: With scarcely more than 20,000 participants, this program has yet to gain much traction. But for those who are eligible for the program, PRA can result in substantial savings. The average reduction in principal is nearly $70,000.
Home Affordable Unemployment Program (HAUP)
Launch: July 2010
Participation: Only about 10,000 borrowers are currently participating in the program
This program originally reduced or suspended mortgage payments for unemployed borrowers for up to three months, but on Wednesday, the Treasury Department announced it would extend that for up to 12 months.
Track record: Participation has been limited. The GSEs, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA, have their own forbearance programs and they represent a huge share of the market.
FHA Short Refinance
Launch date: September, 2010
This is one of the few programs designed to help borrowers who have remained current on their mortgage payments. If their servicers agree to write off at least 10% of the principal, underwater borrowers can refinance into a new FHA-insured loan.
The refinance will put them back in the black, at least on their first mortgage: The debt-to-value ratio has to exceed 97.75%. With any second mortgage factored in, it can't exceed 115%.
Track record: This got off to a very slow start, with only about 15 refinances done by early 2011. The program seemed to gain some traction this spring -- 23 servicers had signed up to participate -- when the House Financial Service Committee voted to kill it in March. It's future is in doubt.
Emergency Homeowner's Loan Program (EHLP)
Launch date: June, 2011
Loans affected: No data yet
This $1 billion program, which was recently launched by HUD, offers interest-free loans to homeowners who have been hit with a job or income loss and reside in one of the 32 states not covered by the Hardest Hit States program.
Loans are restricted to those who have a household income of $75,000 or less, or earn less than 120% of the median household income for a community. They must have missed at least three payments, be on the verge of losing their home and demonstrate the ability to resume payments once their period of unemployment ends.
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