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House panel’s bill would end foreclosure help program

Sun., Feb. 27, 2011

WASHINGTON – A House committee plans to write legislation this week ending the Obama administration’s flagship effort for helping struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure and abolishing three other housing-assistance programs.

At its meeting Thursday, the highest-profile target of the Republican-run House Financial Services Committee will be the Home Affordable Modification Program. The Treasury Department has acknowledged the program won’t meet its original goal of preventing 3 million to 4 million foreclosures, and last month a federal inspector general said it has been a failure.

The bill comes at a time when Republicans are proposing deep spending cuts across the federal budget. They have already pushed legislation through the House cutting this year’s spending by $61 billion, despite opposition by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.

The committee will also vote on GOP plans to terminate programs that help state and local governments buy foreclosed properties and sell or rent them, provide loans to unemployed people who have fallen behind in their mortgage payments, and help restructure mortgages for people who owe more than their homes are worth.

Democrats are expected to oppose the Republican effort. The Home Affordable Modification Program is designed to help financially troubled homeowners reduce their monthly mortgage payments by offering them lower interest rates and longer repayment periods.

Foreclosures have remained high, with the foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. saying there were 2.9 million foreclosure filings last year and more than 3 million expected this year.

Even so, the modification program is expected to ultimately complete only 700,000 to 800,000 permanent modifications, according to a report issued last month by the government’s special inspector general overseeing the program.


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