Obama Offers Housing-Relief Programs

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Obama Offers Housing-Relief Programs


By Brad Plumer

President Obama on Tuesday unveiled two housing initiatives intended to assist members of the military and Americans with government-insured loans.

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In his first major news conference of 2012, Obama announced a new plan to cut refinancing fees for any loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The president also outlined a new agreement with banks to review foreclosures for members of the military that have taken place since 2006 and provide compensation to anyone who wrongfully lost a home.

Neither proposal requires Congress's approval. But they are also more modest than an earlier proposal for a $10 billion refinancing plan that Obama asked lawmakers to pass in his State of the Union address in January.

Here's how the FHA plan would work: Currently, the federal government offers a program to allow borrowers with loans backed by the FHA to refinance at a lower cost. But the fees for refinancing have kept many borrowers from taking the government up on its offer. The administration estimates that an additional 2 million to 3 million homeowners could end up refinancing under its program.

For instance, under the old program, an FHA borrower who owes $175,000 on the mortgage could refinance into a 4 percent loan and whittle the monthly payments down to about $1,010. Under the new program, with the lower fees, that same borrower could reduce mortgage payments even further, down to $915 per month.

Meanwhile, the administration also has struck an agreement with various banks and lenders to conduct a review of foreclosure practices for military members. Any service member or veteran whose home has been wrongly foreclosed on since 2006 will receive compensation equal to a minimum of $116,785 plus any home equity lost since the foreclosure. This compensation will come from the mortgage servicers that conducted the foreclosures. In addition, any service member who was wrongly denied the opportunity to refinance will receive a refund of money lost.

The agreement - and money for relief - comes on top of the $25 billion settlement that the federal government and 49 state attorneys general reached with five of the nation's largest banks last month over flawed and fraudulent home foreclosures.

The administration also will pay an additional $10 million into the Veterans Affairs fund that helps support loans for veterans.

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