WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama rolled out a bold $75 billion, three-part plan Wednesday to halt the soaring rate of mortgage foreclosures nationwide, one that seeks to encourage refinancing of homes now worth less than their mortgages and provides incentives for lenders to lower the debt load on struggling homeowners.

The Homeowner Stability Initiative, which Obama unveiled in Phoenix, seeks to address one of the triggers of the global financial crisis: the 2.3 million U.S. foreclosures last year that are protracting the housing crisis and helping to drive down home prices across the nation.

“When the housing market collapsed, so did the availability of credit on which our economy depends. As that credit dried up, it has been harder for families to find affordable loans,” Obama said. “In the end, all of us are paying a price for this home mortgage crisis. And all of us will pay an even steeper price if we allow this crisis to deepen – a crisis which is unraveling homeownership, the middle class, and the American Dream itself.”

Specifically, the Obama plan seeks to provide low-cost refinancing for as many as 5 million Americans. It seeks to help delinquent or at-risk borrowers get their mortgages modified so that no more than 31 percent of their income is tied up in their mortgages. And it provides financial incentives to lenders and even a new insurance program to promote more mortgage modifications.

Like the failed efforts under the Bush administration, however, the Obama plan doesn’t compel banks and other lenders to modify troubled mortgages. Instead, it provides a menu of incentives that may or may not prove sufficient.

“This is not just the treasury secretary going into the room and asking people to do the right thing,” said a senior Treasury official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak more freely. “This is the first time there has really been a systemic incentive strategy for (lenders).”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.