WASHINGTON -- Offering federal help for strapped mortgage holders, President Bush is proposing to aid hundreds of thousands of borrowers hard hit by the housing slump.
The president on Friday was to talk about several initiatives and reforms to help homeowners with risky mortgages keep their homes, a senior administration official said Thursday. Bush also was to discuss efforts to prevent these kinds of problems from arising in the future.
The official said Bush will direct Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson to work on an initiative to help troubled mortgage holders get services and products they need to keep them from defaulting on their loans. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the initiatives ahead of the presidential event.
Bush also planned to: Urge Congress to pass Federal Housing Administration overhaul legislation that would give the FHA more flexibility in assisting mortgage holders with subprime mortgages. Pledge to work with Congress to reform the tax code to help troubled borrowers rework their loans. Call for rigorously enforcing predatory lending laws and strengthening lending practices.
Foreclosure and late payments have spiked, especially for so-called subprime borrowers with blemished credit histories or low incomes. Higher interest rates and weak home values have made it impossible for some to pay or to keep up with their monthly mortgage payments. Some overstretched homeowners can't afford to refinance or even sell their home.
Mortgage foreclosures and late payments are expected to worsen. Some 2 million adjustable rate mortgages are to reset to higher rates this year and next. Steep penalties for prepaying mortgages have added to some homeowners' headaches.
The economy enjoyed a strong revival in the spring although growing troubles in housing and credit markets have darkened prospects considerably since then. The Commerce Department reported on Thursday that the gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 4 percent in the second quarter -- the strongest showing in more than a year.
But that growth could be the best showing for some time as the economy continues to be battered by the worst housing slump in 16 years and a widening credit crisis that has sent financial markets on a roller-coaster ride in recent weeks.
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