FHFA announces new program to help ‘underwater’ homeowners

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced on Monday morning new rules that will allow many more “underwater” homeowners – who owe more than their properties are worth – to refinance at today’s ultra-low rates.

FHFA estimates up to a million borrowers will use the program, which was originally rolled out in early 2009 and has fallen far short of the number of people it was supposed to help.

Only mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be eligible.

In the past, borrowers who owed only more than 25 percent more than their homes are worth could participate in the program. Now, there is no cap on how much a borrower owes.

Officials hope that by reducing monthly payments, more homeowners will avoid foreclosure, and free up more cash to spend on the economy.

Zachary A. Goldfarb is policy editor at The Washington Post.
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