A "reverse mortgage" that would provide additional income for older home owners was proposed today by the leading spokesman of the $400 billion savings and loan industry.

"Reverse mortgages would open up a new source of income for millions of Americans whose largest single asset, the home where they live, sits idle," said John A. Hardin, president of the United States League of Savings Associations.

Hardin, who runs a savings and loan in Rock Hill, S.C., presented the mortgage plan at a meeting of about 600 savings and loan executives from 12 Southeastern states.

Under the plan, which has been discussed for several years as a concept, monthly checks of a set amount would be sent to participants, usually older people, who have no other mortgage on their homes.

The agreement is called a reverse mortgage because the lender would pay the homeowner. In a normal mortgage, the homeowner borrows money using his home as collateral and repays the loan to the bank in regular installments.

The bank eventually would get its money back under the reverse mortgage plan.When the home is sold or the owner dies, the lender would substract the total of payments made to the owner and the accumulated interest from the value of the mortgage. The remainder then would be paid to the owner or to the estate.

According to an industry source, the anticipate interest rate for the reverse mortgage would be 1 per cent below the going rate for conventional mortgages.

If the homeowner lived long enough to receive payments equal to the value of the home, an insurance policy would ensure he or she still would maintain possession.