If approved, the government would spend $24.4 billion to
guarantee 2.2 million modified loans through the end of next year. The FDIC said
government backing will make the lending industry more willing to modify loans
because it will share any losses with mortgage companies that agree to
refinance certain home loans if the borrower defaults again.
"We think it's essential that we actually strike at the
underlying cause of the problems in the financial markets," said Michael
Krimminger, special adviser for policy at the FDIC, according to the Washington
Post. "We think it's time to make a decisive difference in the housing
markets on foreclosures."
Even if a third of those borrowers default again, 1.5
million homes will still be saved from foreclosure, the Associated Press
"Although foreclosures are costly to lenders, borrowers
and communities, the pace of loan modifications continues to be extremely
slow," the FDIC said. "It is imperative to provide incentives to
achieve a sufficient scale in loan modifications to stem the reductions in
housing prices and rising foreclosures."
The FDIC said it would pay mortgage servicers $1,000 to
cover expenses for each loan modified to the required standards, and would
promise to share up to half of losses incurred if a modified loan defaults.
Eligible borrowers would include those who have missed at
least two monthly payments on loans for homes they live in. Servicers would be
expected to lower those borrowers' monthly payments to about 31 percent of the
borrowers' monthly income.
government is getting something in return for this, which is keeping these
houses off the foreclosure rolls. Because these escalating foreclosures [are]
creating more and more downward pressure on home prices, which is having a very
negative impact on our economy," FDIC chief Sheila Bair said on NPR Friday
The plan could be funded from the U.S. Treasury's $700
billion bailout program for the financial industry, Reuters reported. Most of
the money used so far in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, bailout
program has been injected as capital into banks in hopes of unfreezing lending.
FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, who spent weeks unsuccessfully
lobbying Bush administration officials for the foreclosure prevention plan,
unveiled her agency's proposal two days after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
dismissed the idea of the government underwriting failing home loans.
Paulson told reporters on Wednesday, "That (foreclosure
plan) is a subsidy, or spending, program. The TARP was investment, not
The Treasury Department said Friday that it was aggressively
searching for ways to reduce skyrocketing home foreclosures under the TARP plan.
"We continue to aggressively examine strategies to
mitigate foreclosures and maximize loan modifications, which are a key part of
working through the necessary housing correction and maintaining the strength
of our communities," Treasury Interim Assistant Secretary Neel Kashkari
said in testimony prepared for delivery to a U.S. House of Representatives
The estimated cost of the FDIC plan is based on the
assumption that only one in three borrowers who get a modification will be unable
to make the lower payments, but existing modification programs have not achieved
that level of success, the Post reported. About 45 percent of borrowers who
received loan modifications from mortgage companies last fall already have
slipped back into default, according to a Credit Suisse research note.
FDIC officials say the comparison is misleading because the their
plan would give borrowers a much better chance at success.
"Most of the modifications that have been done to date
are not sustainable modifications," said Richard Brown, the FDIC's chief
economist. He called them "repayment plans," meaning that borrowers
are getting a second chance but not a payment reduced to a level they can
Unless the FDIC proposal receives the Treasury Department's
approval, it would have to either be approved by Congress or wait for review by
the upcoming Obama administration, CNN reported.
In other lending news on Friday, mortgage giant Freddie Mac
asked the federal government for the first $14 billion due under its federal
bailout after it reported massive losses, but concern is mounting that
government efforts to stabilize the mortgage giant and sister company Fannie
Mae are likely to grow far more expensive than originally thought.
Freddie Mac said it lost $25 billion from July through
September. As a result it was essentially broke, having its liabilities exceed
its assets by $13.8 billion.