Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan- Mortgage news for the Bay Area

President Obama unveiled his plan to help stabilize the housing market and keep millions of borrowers in their homes. The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan includes two initiatives to help struggling homeowners. One is a refinancing program for homeowners with less than 20% equity in their homes, or who owe more than their home is worth. The second program attempts to lower monthly payments for homeowners at risk of losing their home. Many of the plan’s details are still being worked out and will not be announced until March 4. Here is an overview of the plan’s main components.

Refinancing Initiative

Under current rules, those families who own less than 20% equity in their homes have a difficult time refinancing and taking advantage of the historically low interest rates. This initiative is open to homeowners who have conforming loans which are guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and who owe up to 5% more than their home is worth.

According to the plan, “credit-worthy” or “responsible” homeowners can refinance their mortgage into a 30- or 15-year, fixed-rate loan based on current market rates. The refinanced loan, however, cannot include prepayment penalties or balloon payments. For many families, this low-cost refinancing may help reduce their mortgage payments by up to thousands of dollars per year.

As with the rest of the plan, details about this initiative will be released at a future date–including what, if any, credit score requirements will be included.

Stability Initiative

This initiative aims at providing help to individual families as well as entire neighborhoods by helping reduce foreclosures and stabilize home prices. It is intended to help homeowners who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments, but cannot sell their homes because prices have fallen significantly.

The goal of this initiative is simple: “reduce the amount homeowners owe per month to sustainable levels.” To accomplish this, lenders are encouraged to lower homeowners’ payments to 31% of their income by lowering their interest rate to as low as 2% or by extending the terms of the loan. In addition, lenders can also lower the principal owed by the borrower, with Treasury sharing in the costs.

Homeowners who are current on their mortgages but are struggling can still apply for this program. As such, this is one of the few programs designed to help homeowners who may face delinquency soon, but are current at the moment.

This initiative also includes a number of additional elements and incentives, including an extra incentive for borrowers to keep paying on time. The initiative will provide a monthly balance reduction payment that goes straight towards reducing the principal balance of the mortgage loan. As long as a borrower stays current on his or her loan, he or she can get up to $1,000 each year for five years.

Since the focus of this initiative is on helping families and neighborhoods, investment properties do not qualify.

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