More troubled homeowners are dropping out of the Obama administration's main foreclosure-relief program, which has been widely criticized for failing to help more people keep their homes.
The Treasury Department said Wednesday that about 774,000 homeowners have dropped out as of last month. That's about 54 percent of the more than 1.4 million people who applied. And it's up from October, when approximately 756,000 had fallen out.
The program is intended to help those at risk of foreclosure by lowering their monthly payments. Borrowers start with lower payments on a trial basis. The program has struggled to convert them into permanent loan modifications.
Another 505,000 homeowners have secured lower payments permanently. That's about 35 percent of the number who enrolled on a trial basis, up slightly from October's reading.
However, the program reached more homeowners in November than in October. The number of new trial modifications increased to about 30,000, up from about 24,000 in October. And the number of trial modifications that turned permanent rose to about 31,000, up from about 26,000.
Foreclosure filings fell by 21 percent last month, their largest monthly decrease since 2005. However, the government warned that the decrease likely will be temporary. Lenders are expected to revise and resubmit paperwork in the coming months
Several major mortgage companies halted foreclosures this fall after acknowledging that they might have mishandled court papers.
Homeowners applying to the foreclosure-relief program say the program is a bureaucratic mess, with banks losing documents and failing to return phone calls. Banks blame homeowners for failing to submit needed paperwork.
Homeowners accepted into the program can receive interest rates as low as 2 percent for five years and can repay their loans over a longer period. Those who remain in the program see their monthly payments cut on average by about $500.
The program has reached far fewer people than the government expected. As a result, it will cost a fraction of the $50 billion that originally was budgeted for foreclosure relief.
As of last week, Treasury had paid out about $729 million to borrowers, mortgage companies and investors affected by the main mortgage-aid program.