Mortgage Plan Could Help Thousands of Homeowners
The highest-profile part of the plan would freeze introductory "teaser" rates on certain subprime mortgages, preventing from rates from jumping up for five years.
This offer would apply only to people living in their homes and who have not missed any payments at the lower rate. It also only would apply to loans taken out between 2005 and this past July 30 and scheduled to rise to higher rates in 2008 and 2009.
The hope is that the five-year freeze will buy time for the housing sales and prices to start rising again. Such a rebound would enable homeowners to refinance their current adjustable rate mortgages into fixed-rate loans with more affordable monthly payments.
But even Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who led the negotiations with the mortgage industry, acknowledged the effort is "not a silver bullet."
"We face a difficult problem," he said.
The big sticking point in the negotiations was getting investors who had purchased the mortgages after they were bundled into securities to agree to accept lower interest payments. Critics have said even with a deal, there are likely to be lawsuits. But officials representing major players in the mortgage industry said they believed the plan would withstand any legal challenges and would help at-risk homeowners avoid defaulting on their mortgages.
The president also did not miss the chance to lash out at the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Bush blamed lawmakers for not sending him legislation that he said would show they "are serious about responding to the challenges in the housing market." One measure would give the FHA more flexibility; a second would change the tax laws temporarily to help people who have a portion of their mortgage forgiven by banks.
"The Congress has not sent me a single bill to help homeowners," Bush said.