InfoBytes, February 8, 2012 - A Weekly In-depth review of news & developments in the financial services industry.

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An excerpt from Federal Issues

Obama Administration Expands Housing Recovery Plans. On February 1, President Obama unveiled a plan to expand government support for the housing market, including a broad-based refinancing plan. The plan, announced during the President's State of the Union Address, combines changes to existing programs and creation of new initiatives, some of which will require congressional action. First, the President will ask Congress to enact legislation to allow the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to provide government support for the refinancing of non-Fannie Mae and non-Freddie Mac mortgages. The $5 to $10 billion program would be funded by a fee imposed on the largest financial institutions. For borrowers with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans, the legislation would further streamline existing refinance programs and create incentives for borrowers to accept shorter loan terms to build equity. Second, the administration will continue its work to create new mortgage origination and servicing standards in an effort to create a Homeowner Bill of Rights. Third, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) will conduct a pilot program through which it will sell foreclosed properties to be transitioned into rental housing. Finally, the President's upcoming budget will include a national program to put unemployed construction workers back to work refurbishing vacant and foreclosed properties.

The President also highlighted the work of the recently-formed Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group (see InfoBytes, January 27, 2012), and reviewed the success of existing government efforts (e.g., those related to unemployment forbearance). Further, the announcement incorporated a Treasury Department move last week to enhance the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) by (i) extending HAMP's deadline through December 31, 2013, (ii) expanding borrower eligibility for HAMP, and (iii) encouraging use of principal reduction for loans insured or owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. In response, the FHFA reiterated its opposition to use of principal reduction by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Click here for a copy of the White House housing plan fact sheet; click here for the Treasury HAMP announcement; click here for the FHFA real estate owned sale announcement; click here for the FHFA's statement on HAMP expansion.

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