The Housing and Economic Recovery Act, Public Law 110-289, was passed on July 30, 2008. It created the HOPE for Homeowners program. It is effective from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2011. 

In February 2009, President Obama introduced the Making Home Affordable program, which authorized the Home Affordable Refinance program and the Home Affordable Modification program. The Home Affordable Refinance program expires on June 10, 2011 and the Home Affordable Modification program expires on December 31, 2012.

HOPE for Homeowners Program

This program’s goal is to reduce principal and interest payments for eligible borrowers by allowing them to refinance into fixed rate 30-year FHA-insured loans based on current property values. Lender participation is voluntary. Eligible mortgages must have been originated by January 1, 2008. Borrowers must certify that they:

1. have a mortgage debt-to-income of at least 31%,

2. are unable to afford their current loan,

3. have not intentionally missed mortgage payments,

4. do not own second homes, and

5. have not been convicted of mortgage fraud.

Additionally, they must certify that the mortgaged property is their primary residence, and is a single-family home (one to four units).

Original lenders must agree to:

1. pay a 3% one-time insurance fee to FHA;

2. write down the mortgage to achieve a 90% loan-to-value ratio, if necessary;

3. waive prepayment penalties on the existing mortgage; and

4. release all existing claims, such as second mortgages.

The new loan may not exceed 90% of the property’s current appraised value. The maximum loan amount is 132% of the Freddie Mac limit. The program is effective from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2011.

The Making Home Affordable Program

This federal program offers two options for mortgage applicants and seeks to make mortgages more affordable and prevent foreclosures. Lender participation is voluntary. The two options for homeowners are the Home Affordable Refinance program and the Home Affordable Modification program. Investors and lenders are provided incentives for participating in the Making Home Affordable program. The Making Home Affordable website refers homeowners to contact (888) 995-HOPE.

The Home Affordable Refinance Program.

This program is for applicants whose existing mortgage is owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae and who have not missed any mortgage payments. Normally, they would be ineligible to refinance because their homes have decreased in value. The program allows them to refinance into a more stable and affordable fixed-rate loan. The program is in effect until June 2011.

The Home Affordable Modification Program.

This program assists homeowners who are at-risk and may have already missed a mortgage payment. However, payment delinquency is not a criterion for eligibility. Modifications may start immediately and continue until December 31, 2012, and loans may be modified only once. The Treasury will partner with the financial institution and investors to reduce a homeowner’s monthly mortgage payments. Criteria for eligibility in this program include the following:

1. the loan must have been originated on or before January 1, 2009;

2. the owner must occupy the property;

3. the first-lien loan has an unpaid balance of up to $ 729,750;

4. the mortgage payment is more than 31% of the homeowner’s gross monthly income; and

5. the applicant must sign an affidavit of financial hardship.

 Only the homeowner’s first mortgage is eligible for modification under this program.