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Can a new HUD program save homeowners?

In June, the Department of Housing and Urban Development launched a new grant program to help home owners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments due to unemployment or unexpected medical bills.

The program offers eligible home owners $50,000 in interest-free loans for up to two years.

HUD has until the end of the government’s fiscal year, Sept. 30, to spend all of its $1 billion for the Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program (or EHLP), which will provide 27 states with aid for the program. Home owners in eligible states have until July 22 to complete their applications.

HUD hopes that 30,000 home owners can be helped through the program.

However, while some are seeing the program as a last chance to help unemployed home owners stay in their homes, others aren’t as convinced the program will do much good in ultimately lessening foreclosures in the country.

"The best foreclosure mitigation program in America is a job,” argues Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. “It's not a government check, it's a paycheck.” Earlier this year, Hensarling sponsored a bill to end EHLP, which was supported by the House. The Senate has yet to take up the bill, however.

For a full list of states and eligibility requirements for EHLP, visit the HUD Web site.

Source: “HUD to Give Away $1 Billion to Struggling Home Owners,” The Washington Post (July 4, 2011)

















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Down Payment Plan May Price Buyers Out of Market

How much a home buyer should have a for a down payment on a home has been up for dispute among policymakers. Some recent federal regulators and lawmakers calling for a 20 percent or 10 percent down payment in order for mortgages to be considered a “qualified residential mortgage” and not subjected to extra fees.

However, such stringent down payment requirements could price many home owners out of the housing market, argues a growing number of consumer housing advocates.

In fact, for many creditworthy home buyers in occupations that don’t boast high median salaries, they might have to wait a decade or even longer to meet the down payment rule.

The Center for Responsible Lending, which has argued that 10 percent or 20 percent down payment requirements are too high, has a chart on its Web site boasting the length of time it would take borrowers of different occupations to save enough for a 10 percent down payment on a 2010 median-priced $172,900 home.

▪ U.S. Army Staff Sergeant: 16 years (median salary: $30,176)
▪ Public school teacher: Nearly 15 years (median salary: $33,530)
▪ Firefighter: 10 years (median salary: $47,730)
▪ Police officer: Nearly 9 years (median salary: $55,620)

“We’re not advocating for zero percent down,” Kathleen Day, spokesperson for the Center for Responsible Lending, told The New York Times. “We think down payments are good. But we think the market should set them, based on the underwriting.” (That is, based on the borrower’s credit history and income and debt levels.)

The down payment proposal comes as part of new rules for mortgage lenders in the Dodd-Frank law. Federal agencies are trying to set criteria for what should be considered a reasonably safe mortgage or QRM. Lenders issuing a QRM will be able to sell the loan to an investor and avoid retaining any of the risk. However, lenders will consider non-QRMs more risky since they'll have to retain a 5 percent ownership. (Loans insured by the Federal Housing Agency would be exempt.) For borrowers who are unable to meet QRM, they would have to pay more for their loans because lenders would have to boost interest rates on their loans to cover the extra costs.

What You Can Do

Lawmakers have extended the public comment on the new down payment rules to Aug. 1. The REALTOR® Action Center has issued a call for real estate professionals to help ensure their clients have access to affordable mortgages.

Source: What’s a Reasonable Home Down Payment?” The New York Times (June 29, 2011) and REALTOR® Magazine online


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