Massachusetts officials launched a low-interest mortgage loan program a day early this week, fearing that residents would misinterpret short lines that were beginning to form at 17 banks.

On Tuesday, the state housing finance agency announced that it would offer the loans, beginning on Thursday. When the lines began to form on Wednesday, state officials directed lenders to start taking applications early because they were afraid that residents might misunderstand the situation in light of the savings and loan crisis in Maryland.

Massachusetts, along with Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, has a system of private insurance for state-chartered savings and loan institutions. Ohio's fund collapsed earlier this year. Seventeen of the 130 lenders offering the loans at 9.95 percent interest reported lines containing a total of 53 people, according to Frank Sorensen, an official of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency.

The timing was coincidental; the agency had just closed a bond sale and the loan money was to be available Thursday, he said. Banking commissioner Paul E. Bulman decided to eliminate the lines "so nobody would panic and misinterpret the reasons," Sorensen said.

Because it had, in effect, "changed the rules" in mid-game, he added, his agency promised to make the same amount of funds available to those who had planned to wait until Thursday to apply.