Obama: A Bold U.S. Plan to Help Struggling Homeowners

YOU DON’T NEED TO BE DELINQUENT TO SETTLE OR MODIFY. It might just be a good time to pick up the phone right now and call the servicer, trustee, or whoever is saying they have your loan (even though they don’t) and make a deal. Think about it first. Don’t be too generous to them and don’t be to greedy for yourself.  It’s true they don’t serve the home or the new mortgage, but if you can get the terms you need, and you get a court order confirming it, it won’t matter that the investors got ripped off in the deal. That’s not your problem.

Editor’s Note: Now that the plan is more fully described, hold the presses. It would seem that Obama got our message. This plan addresses all homeowners with securitized mortgages that were over appraised, and aims to keep them in their homes to avoid the obviously needless and lawless displacement that has been the rule up till now.
But don’t get lulled into complacency. The Banks are no more able or willing to give you that modification than they were before, with the possible exception of BofA. You still need legal weapons and ammunition, you most likely still need a lawyer, and you still need to get title quieted through a court order. It’s all possible if the settlement or “modification” agreement provides the right terms.
March 26, 2010

A Bold U.S. Plan to Help Struggling Homeowners


Will it work this time?

Once again, the federal government is adding to its arsenal of programs for troubled homeowners, seeking to help those who urgently need it while neither angering nor creating perverse incentives for those who do not.

The new measures, announced by financial policy makers at the White House on Friday, are among the boldest to date. They are aimed not only at the seven million households that are behind on their mortgages but, in a significant expansion of aid that proved immediately controversial, the 11 million that simply owe more on their homes than they are worth.

Some of these people, if the government plan works, will emerge with a house whose payments they can afford and whose new mortgage reflects its market value. Unlike many previous modification recipients, they would presumably be less likely to re-default, helping to stabilize a housing market that remains queasy.

“We’re walking that delicate balance to make sure these solutions are sustainable and not temporary,” said David H. Stevens, commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration.

It is a balancing act in numerous ways. If the plan falls short — and some experts were skeptical on Friday — the Obama administration could find itself having to start over yet again in six months or a year.

“The housing market is the Vietnam War of the American financial system,” said Howard Glaser, a housing consultant. “The federal government is in so deep, they have to keep ramping up to find a way out.”

The latest programs, together with foreclosure assistance efforts already in place, are aimed at helping as many as four million embattled owners keep their houses. But the measures, which will take as long as six months to put into practice, might easily fall victim to some of the conflicting interests that have bedeviled efforts to date. None of these programs have the force of law, and lenders have often seen no good reason to participate.

To lubricate its efforts, the government plans to spread taxpayers’ money around liberally. For instance, it had previously planned to give homeowners that sell their homes rather than let them go into foreclosure a “relocation assistance” payment of $1,500. The plan announced on Friday increases that amount to $3,000.

All told, the new measures are expected to cost about $50 billion. The White House was careful to stress that the money will come from funds already set aside for housing programs in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. There will be “no additional commitment of taxpayer dollars,” Michael S. Barr, an assistant secretary of the Treasury, said at the White House briefing.

Here is what the $50 billion is supposed to buy:

The simplest component of the plan involves assistance to unemployed homeowners. Mortgage companies will now be encouraged to reduce payments for at least three months and possibly six months while the homeowner pursues a new job.

To be eligible, borrowers must submit proof they are receiving unemployment insurance. The new payments will be 31 percent or less of their monthly income. The missing money will be tacked onto the loan’s principal.

A second and more complicated program is a requirement that mortgage servicers consider writing off a portion of a borrower’s loan to get it down to a more manageable level.

Borrowers in the government modification plan who owe more than 115 percent of the value of their home and are paying more than 31 percent of their monthly income toward the mortgage are eligible. The write-downs are to take three years, with the borrowers in essence being rewarded for making their payments on time.

The third major new program strays the farthest from the government’s previous approach. Borrowers who owe more on their homes than they are worth will get a chance to cut their debt — providing the investor or bank who owns the loan agrees.

Mr. Stevens of the F.H.A. said the program was “for responsible homeowners who through no fault of their own find themselves in a situation of negative equity.”

There is no official requirement that these homeowners be in distress, but it would probably make the investor more receptive to a deal. Whether homeowners will scheme to get into the program is one of the big uncertainties.

The investors will write down the loans to 97.75 percent of the appraised value of the property, at which point the F.H.A. will refinance them through new lenders. The F.H.A., which currently insures about six million homes, will insure the new loans as well.

If the homeowner has a second mortgage, as many do, the total value of the new mortgage can be as much as 115 percent of the value of the property. The F.H.A. will spend up to $14 billion to provide incentives to the banks that service the primary loan as well as the owners of the secondary loans. Some of the money will also provide additional insurance on the new loans.

Numerous parties will have to work together to make these deals fly. The primary loan might have been bundled into a pool and sold to investors during the housing boom. The investor must agree to cut the principal balance for a deal to work, and any bank holding a second mortgage on the property would have to go along, too.

The only incentive for the first lien holder is a quick exit from a loan that might ultimately default. Payments for second lien holders will be made on a sliding scale.

Early reaction to the refinance program among lending groups was less than enthusiastic.

“The magnitude of this program will likely be measured in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands of borrowers,” said Tom Deutsch, executive director of the American Securitization Forum. Both banks and investors belong to the forum.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, which represents the banks that service the primary loans and own outright many of the secondary loans, warned that “each servicer will need to determine whether this is the best approach to help the individual borrower.”

The new proposals irked many people, who flooded online forums Friday. Some said those in trouble deserved their fate. Others asked why the government was propping up housing prices when many renters still could not afford to buy a house. And some wondered about the message these rescue plans were sending to those who resisted the housing bubble.

Dave Juliette, a software worker in Pittsburgh, is in the last group. He paid off his loan eight years ahead of schedule and now owns his house free and clear. “I’m a homeowner in a more genuine sense of the word than many of these people with mortgages,” Mr. Juliette said. “But I won’t be seeing a dime.”

8 Responses

  1. After 15 months of struggle for loan modification, BOA gave me trial period payments which I can not afford. The payment is $ 5158.00/month plus 2nd loan of $ 600.00/ month. Total of $ 5758.00/month which is out of my capacity. It seems I am loosing my house. The sale date is 09-16-2010.
    As Ms. desor (Head of Loan Dept of BOA)said on Internet that
    “Bank of America to start reducing mortgage principal in loan modifications
    Bank to forgive up to 30 percent of some borrowers’ total mortgage balance ”
    Why I am not given that opportunity? If BOA reduce my principal to 30% than I will able (I promise )to pay mortgage without missing one. With my total gross income $ 8100.00/month I will gladly pay the mortgage. As I have said before I have emotional attachments with the house, I had put hard earned money as a down payment (from my IRA) and this is the house for us and my grand children!

    What are my chances? If you help me, I will be grateful to BOA for my life. If you do not than I feel I have LOST THE BATTLE. PLEASE LET ME KNOW ASAP, so I know where I am going to sleep after 16th Sep 2010!

    Thank you very much.

    kind regrads

    Bharti and Mahesh Mody


  2. Glad to be contributing to this wonderful site for the 1st time!
    As a lifetime JFK/MLK liberal, I contend that Pres. Obama hasn’t done a single thing to help distressed homeowners. There’s a huge dichotomy between what he says in public speeches in front of adoring crowds, and what he then turns around and does.

    Unfortunately, Obama’s new mortgage modification program will also do nothing to help the vast majority of homeowners. As Mike Whitney writes (April 1,’10) in “Timothy Geithner Is a Sniveling Scamster:”

    “The plan was hyped as help for ‘struggling homeowners,’ but it turns out, it’s just another stealth bailout for pudgy bank execs…..already, big time speculators are riffling through their file cabinets looking for any garbage paper they can find to dump on Uncle Sam.”

    A Wall St. veteran put it this way: “It looks like the investors in securitizations will be swapping underwater real estate for govt-insured paper…I think the scam here is just to provide some cover so the hedge funds & other high net worth individuals can trade their low grade paper for Triple AAA mortgages insured by the FHA at taxpayer expense.”

    Here’s how it works: The new program offers incentives to banks and other deep-pocketed investors (in mortgage-backed securities) to slash the principal on underwater mortgages, which keeps people from strategic default or foreclosure. Sounds good, right? But here’s the catch: When the mortgage is refinanced, it’s converted into an FHA-backed loan which provides an explicit govt guarantee. So, for a slight loss on the face-value of the MBS, the investors (ie–investment banks, hedgies, etc) are able to resuscitate their moribund securitizations (MBS) and reap hefty gains. It’s like taking Fido’s steaming pile on the front lawn and turning it into the Hope Diamond.

    Whitney continues: Geithner has figured out how to put together a bailout that will cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars without any money actually exchanging hands. The value of the putrid mortgage-paper will soar because of the govt underwriting, & the ginormous losses won’t be realized until the mortgages start blowing up sometime in the future. That’s when the FHA will be put out to pasture along with fellow homicide victims, Freddie & Fannie. Pretty clever, eh?

    So, the cutthroat speculators and bunko artists who fleeced us all with their dogshit subprimes, have returned for another dip at the public trough. That means taxpayers will get scalped on the same investments a second time. A double-whammy!

    Geithner has put together a seamless transition from one massive corporate giveaway to the next. Now, the banks will be loaded with fresh reserves, and another trillion or so is earmarked for the shadow bankers.
    AND IT’S ALL 100% FREE. Such a deal.

    The Endgame, of course, is to deliberately collapse the dollar and our economy, thus forcing us to accept their (the international bankers who own both the Federal Reserve & the Bank of England—ie, the Rothschilds & Rockefellers) long-anticipated wetdream of a global currency, and with it, a global regulatory body, or an unelected, fascist Global Government, controlled by them. These banking families & other Anglo-American elites have always called this agenda a New World Order. It’s upon us, and they’ll pull the plug on our economy, and the world’s, when they’ve sucked our Treasury dry and have maxed out all of America’s credit cards and goodwill.

    David DeGraw has recently written an excellent 6-part series, “The Economic Elite vs The People of the United States.” He writes for both Amped Status and GlobalResearch.ca His latest article, “Is It Time for Law Abiding American Citizens to Stop Paying Their Taxes and Start a New Government?” ends with a call to action that you can sign up for to channel your frustration, anger, and concern for our country into positive change that represents the best interests of the 99% of us that are tired of being screwed time & again by the sociopathic top 1%. They fear our numbers. Let’s leverage that!

    Thanks for your time and attention. Let’s keep on working together!

  3. yhank you for the news! i think its good news and hope to share it with friends!!!!!!!

  4. From the Associated Press 04/01/2010…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has sold $490.7 million in troubled mortgage loans from 19 banks that failed between August 2008 and March 2009 as it works through an inventory of assets from the institutions it has taken over.

    The FDIC said Thursday that the winning bidder in its auction, Charlotte, N.C.-based Roundpoint Mortgage Servicing Corp., paid $34.4 million for a 50 percent stake in a new company set up to hold the home mortgage loans. The FDIC has the other 50 percent.

    About half the loans are 30 or more days delinquent, the FDIC said. The agency said about 80 percent of the homes involved are located in Arizona, Florida and Georgia, which are among the states with the highest numbers of failed banks.

    Last year, 140 U.S. banks succumbed to the soured economy and a cascade of loan defaults — the most in a year since 1992 at the height of the savings-and-loan crisis. The failures compare with 25 in 2008 and three in 2007. They cost the federal deposit insurance fund, which fell into the red, more than $30 billion last year.

    FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has said bank failures are expected to be higher this year than in 2009, mainly driven by losses in commercial real estate loans.

  5. for real Neil, why do you even post this stuff you know it’s a fraud why don’t you post something about the problems that were caused when lobbyists like AIPAC removed Usury limit Laws that had never went above 12 percent for Thousands of years or how Investment Bankers/Brokers are creating DeadBonds of Mortgage Destruction by gambling with judges pension funds, losing it (leaving major loses) and walking away pocketing $Millions$ in fees, leaving the judges to go cannibal on homeowners who end up getting screwed the most in the end because who has the final word in court?(used to be juries) Judges. They recoup a good portion of their “investment” and the homeowner now owns nothing but a dark lesson Never put your faith or trust of your security in life in the hands of jewish congressmen and bankers because they will steal it from you and charge you for doing it.

  6. BOFA better make sure they can find the (original) promissory note , and the (original ) deed of trust before they get too reved up to foreclose on the “squatters” .

    What ” term” can we invent for a bank that had to blow the taxpayers for a loan , so they could stay in business ?

    The way I see it , the greedy bankers want to get their cake and eat it too …. they ruined the economy playing Russian roulette with exotic mortage packages ….. and now they want people to help them through it .

  7. This is a political Joke! Nothing will happen. The
    only solution is a moratorium on interest payments
    across the board. Let the free market determine the
    value of the discounted Note at zero interest on the
    value of the underlying property. This would be simple
    and equitable while freeing up money to stimulate the
    economy. Simplicity =success, complexity =failure!

  8. Don’t be so sure of BofA helping – THEY PLAN A 600% INCREASE IN FORECLOSURES IN 2010 – from 7500 to 45,000 homes a month by the end of 2010.

    This post originally appeared on the Irvine Housing Blog.

    Bank of America made headlines with its principal forgiveness program. The real news is that they are preparing to blast debtors out of their bunkers of entitlement.

    The more I know, the less I understand
    All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again
    I’ve been tryin’ to get down
    to the heart of the matter
    But my will gets weak
    and my thoughts seem to scatter
    But I think it’s about…forgiveness
    Even if, even if you don’t PAY me anymore

    Don Henley — The Heart of the Matter

    Lenders are trying to figure out how their massive Ponzi Scheme collapsed. They are relearning lending again because everything they thought they knew was wrong. When you get down to the heart of the matter, borrowers are carrying too much debt which is killing them financially and emotionally. It is about forgiveness. Even if it means debtors don’t pay anymore.

    Forgiveness never comes easy, and in lending it never comes cheap. These debts will be forgiven, and the toxic loans that spawned them will be cleansed from the system — mostly through foreclosure. Home debtors are hoping for principal forgiveness without consequence. That isn’t going to happen. Lenders only forgive as a last resort, and there are consequences for the borrower. When it’s done, lenders turn to the US taxpayer to make them whole again.

    A 600% increase in foreclosures
    I attended a local Building Industry Association conference on Friday 26 March 2010. The west coast manager of real estate owned, Senior Vice President Ken Gaitan, stated that Bank of America, which currently forecloses on 7,500 homes a month nationally, will increase that number to 45,000 homes per month by December of 2010.

    After his surprising statement, two questioners from the audience asked questions to verify the numbers.

    Bank of America is projecting a 600% increase in its already large number of monthly foreclosures.

    This isn’t unsubstantiated rumor; this comes straight from one of the most powerful men in Bank of America’s OREO department (yes, that really is what they call it). It appears they have too many properties already.

    Perhaps this is a good time to start a Trustee Sale service…. One of the panelists who works for a building company said he was flipping houses with his personal money. He noted that in some markets, he can buy a house at auction for less money than builders are paying for finished lots. That is a bit crazy.

    There was encouraging news from some in the reality-based community at the conference. Builders are buying up projects in Southern California, so the land market has found a bottom. Prices are still speculative, but the builders are buying to have buildable inventory, so in select markets real demand exists for finished lots and properties with partial improvements.

    There was a certain amount of positive spin at the event, which is natural given the beleaguered stated of the Southern California building industry. Jeff Collins at the OC Register covered the more bullish opinions.

    Principal reductions are a public relations diversion
    Everyone is abuzz with the news that Bank of America is forgiving principal. As you might imagine, many will apply and few will be helped. Moral hazard dictates that irresponsible borrowing that results in free money will cause more irresponsible borrowing; after all, it isn’t borrowing, it’s a gift. If banks start giving away money, everyone will do whatever is necessary to obtain it.

    I contend the principal reduction program is a public relations diversion. Let’s look at the numbers. By Bank of America’s own admission, the program will assist 45,000 customers — a sum equal to the monthly foreclosure rates they are anticipating by the end of the year. If they are foreclosing on more people each month than would be helped by the principal reduction program, then the program is merely a pleasant facade intended to divert attention from the huge volume of foreclosures they will push through.

    Bank of America to Reduce Mortgage Balances
    Published: March 24, 2010
    Bank of America said on Wednesday that it would begin forgiving some mortgage debt in an effort to keep distressed borrowers from losing their homes.

    The program, while limited in scope and available by invitation only, signals a significant shift in efforts to deal with the millions of homeowners who are facing foreclosure. It comes as banks are being urged by the White House, members of Congress and community groups to do more to stem the tide.

    The Obama administration is also studying whether to provide more help to people who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

    Bank of America’s program may increase the pressure on other big banks to offer more help for delinquent borrowers, while potentially angering homeowners who have kept up their payments and are not getting such aid.

    You think? Responsible borrowers should be pissed. The more irresponsible and foolish borrowers were, the greater their principal forgiveness.

    As the housing market shows signs of possibly entering another downturn, worries about foreclosure are growing. With the volume of sales falling, prices are sliding again. When the gap increases between the size of a mortgage and the value that the home could fetch in a sale, owners tend to give up.

    Cutting the size of the debt over a period of years, however, might encourage people to stick around. That could save homes from foreclosure and stabilize neighborhoods.

    “Banks are willing to take some losses now to avoid much greater losses later if the housing market continues to spiral, and that’s a sea change from where they were a year ago,” said Howard Glaser, a housing consultant in Washington and former government regulator.

    The threat of a stick may be helping banks to realize that principal write-downs are in their ultimate self-interest. The Bank of America program was announced simultaneously with the news that the lender had reached a settlement with the state of Massachusetts over claims of predatory lending.

    The program is aimed at borrowers who received subprime or other high-risk loans from Countrywide Financial, the biggest and one of the most aggressive lenders during the housing boom. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.

    Bank of America is trying this principal reduction program with Option ARM holders because they know these people are all going to default. Anything they can do to minimize the losses on these properties, including delaying foreclosure and hoping for appreciation, is preferred to absorbing these losses when prices are very low. Of course, it will not work, but it it worth a shot. They have little to lose by trying.

    Borrowers have nothing to lose either. The Bank of America program is an attempt to stop the hopelessly underwater from strategically defaulting. It is their only hope.

    The devil is in the details
    Bank of America officials said the maximum reduction would be 30 percent of the value of the loan.

    Those people who are more than 30% underwater are considered the walking dead. They should default. If you don’t qualify for this program because you are too far underwater, what hope do you have?

    I heard recently that Hemet, California, has a significant number of borrowers more than 50% underwater. Back in 2006-2007, I was involved with the Valley Economic Development Corporation working to bring business to Hemet and San Jacinto. I remember a brochure we created touting the relative affordability of local housing. At the time, the median income was $45,000 per year, and the median home price was $405,000.

    Most who paid $405,000 for a house back then used Option ARMs because you could leverage ten-times your income to obtain a property. Now that the median home price is around $175,000 — which is close to four-times income — many residents owe more than double what their house is worth.

    They said the program would work this way: A borrower might owe, say, $250,000 on a house whose value has fallen to $200,000. Fifty thousand dollars of that balance would be moved into a special interest-free account.

    As long as the owner continued to make payments on the $200,000, $10,000 in the special account would be forgiven each year until either the balance was zero or the housing market had recovered and the borrower once again had positive equity.

    Let’s see how a Southern California borrower would be effected by this program. Let’s assume a $500,000 house price and a $400,000 first mortgage with a $100,000 second. The second is not subject to this agreement, so we already have our first major hurdle to overcome. When Bank of America lowers the value of its first mortgage, are they taking into account he indebtedness of the second? If they don’t, payments are still not affordable.

    Assume the borrower received $200,000 in potential principal reduction. Now they are paying on a $200,000 first and a $100,000 second which brings their combined loan-to-value under 100%. The $200,000 of deferred principal gets reduced by $10,000 a year until values increase. Absent appreciation, it will take 20 years to dig out. That is a long time to rent their home from the bank with zero equity.

    Here is where it gets fuzzy — on purpose I’m sure — Let’s say the borrower stays with the program for ten years. The deferred principal is now $100,000, and the total indebtedness is $400,000 minus amortization. Let’s further assume that prices have appreciated, and the property is now worth $400,000. What happens?

    Does the principal forgiveness end and the account with the principal deferment is permanently fixed at the point of crossover? How do we know when this occurs? Is Bank of America going to order yearly appraisals just prior to forgiving the debt to make sure the owner is still underwater?
    Once Bank of America discovers the borrower is no longer underwater, can they recapture forgiven principal if the borrower continues to live in the property? In short, does the bank get the appreciation to recover the forgiven debt, or does the borrower get to keep it?
    How is this deferred principal paid off? Is this a permanent zero-interest loan paid off when the property is sold? Does the deferred principal get added back to the original mortgage once the borrower is no longer underwater? What happens to the borrowers payment?
    If those questions are resolved in favor of borrowers, I would be surprised. To the degree that the borrower benefits is the degree to which moral hazard is encouraged.

    Too little too late
    Bank of America said its new program would initially help about 45,000 Countrywide borrowers — a fraction of the 1.2 million Bank of America homeowners who are in default. The total amount of principal reduced, it estimated, would be $3 billion.

    The bank said it would reach out to delinquent borrowers whose mortgage balance was at least 20 percent greater than the value of the house. These people would then have to demonstrate a hardship like a loss of income.

    These requirements will, the bank hopes, restrain any notion that it is offering easy bailouts to those who might otherwise be able to pay. “The customers who will get this offer really can’t afford their mortgage,” Mr. Schakett said.

    LOL! Every borrower in Bank of America’s books is going to seek a bailout. That is moral hazard! That is why you don’t bail people out. The only way to discourage this is to create a program nobody qualifies for… I guess they did that, didn’t they?

    But Steve Walsh, a mortgage broker [LOL!] in Scottsdale, Ariz., who said he had just abandoned his house and several rental properties, called the program “another Band-Aid. It probably would not have prevented me from walking away.”

    That is the other problem Bank of America must contend with. Many of the people who took out these loans were speculators who are going to walk no matter the terms because their speculative venture did not turn out as planned.

    … Reducing principal is widely endorsed, in theory, as a cure for foreclosures. The trouble is, no one wants to absorb the costs. [No kidding?]

    When the administration announced a housing assistance program in the five hardest-hit states last month, officials explicitly opened the door to principal forgiveness. Despite reservations expressed by the Treasury, the White House and Housing and Urban Development officials have continued to study debt forgiveness in areas with lots of so-called underwater homes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

    “Continued study” is code for “we are not going to do anything, but we want you to think that we might.” It is part of the dangling-carrot policy designed only to keep debtors paying.

    On a national scale, such a program risks a political firestorm if the banks are unable to finance all the losses themselves. Regulators like the comptroller of the currency and the Federal Reserve have been focused on maintaining the banks’ capital levels, which could be hurt by large-scale debt forgiveness.

    “You have to be very careful not to design a program that would change people’s fundamental behavior across the country in a destabilizing way or would be widely perceived as unfair to people who are continuing to pay,” Michael S. Barr, an assistant secretary of the Treasury, said early this year.

    Moral Hazard can’t be avoided
    No program exists, nor can one be designed, that does not create moral hazard and gross unfairness. That is why this issue is so difficult.

    This process must be allowed to run its course. Bank of America will manage its public relations and try to look like they are working to prevent foreclosures.

    In reality, Bank of America is gearing up to remove the loan owners and squatters. Expect to see a steady increase in foreclosures all year continuing for the foreseeable future.

    Should we give HELOC abusers principal reductions?
    We all know this money went to conspicuous consumption and keeping up with the Joneses just like it did for everyone else. Do you want to see them get a principal reduction to pay for it?

    I don’t.

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