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Obama plan brings hope to homeowners

March 26, 2010 7:51:36 PM PDT
The Obama administration Friday announced a new plan for anyone struggling to make mortgage payments. The program would help about 10 million borrowers who owe more on their loans than their houses are worth. It would also allow unemployed borrowers to get their monthly payments reduced.

The East Bay community of Antioch has suffered in this housing crisis.

Joseph Gonzalez is living with his parents in a home that is worth less than the mortgage. The family got behind on the payments and the bank has threatened to foreclose.

"And they turned around and did a short sale on it and somebody bought the house so now they gave us a date to get out so we have to be out by next month," Gonzalez said.

Under the president's plan announced Friday, unemployed homeowners would get a three to six month break on their mortgages and lenders could charge no more than 30 percent of the unemployment benefits that the homeowners receive during that time.

Chris Ebreo owns the house next door to the Gonzalez's.

"I called the mortgage companies and said, 'If you guys don't want to help me then I'm going to walk away from the house,'" Ebreo said.

Ebreo has a job, but it did not make sense to him to keep paying for a house that was worth a fraction of what he owed.

"They ended up calling me back and saying, 'Oh, well we can help you out with it and we can restructure your loan,'" Ebreo said.

Ebreo got $70,000 knocked off his principal and a fixed rate loan that he can afford.

To date, only 168,000 people have had their mortgages permanently modified. A year ago, the White House predicted three or four million would be helped.

"We don't have mortgage programs right now that are really working to solve this issue," mortgage broker Leon Huntting said. Huntting is a former president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers.

Huntting says lenders continue to be content to hold onto troubled loans rather than take the loss.

"I don't think the overall response is going to be that positive," he said.

The president plans to offer billions to entice banks to reduce the principal on troubled mortgages, making it easier for homeowners to stay and keep paying.

Huntting is not hopeful.

"I don't think we've dealt with the problem, quite frankly," he said.

Huntting and others are saying we are in for a lot more pain in the housing market.


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