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US can help homeowners manage risk: HUD secretary

FHA lowering annual premiums

The government can bring more Americans into the housing market while managing risks that contributed to the country's housing and financial crisis, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development told CNBC.

The Federal Housing Administration lowered its insurance premiums by half a percentage point on Monday. The move follows Fannie Mae's decision to back loans for which borrowers have made low 3 percent down payments.

While the new FHA policy lowers a financial hurdle for first-time homebuyers, the government has also introduced a series of safeguards, Julian Castro told "Squawk Box" on Monday. Those include a credit score floor of 500 and a mandatory 10 percent down payment for borrowers with suboptimal credit scores.

"These safeguards that are in place are making sure that we don't slide back to where we were when the housing crisis came upon us," he said. "At the same time we also don't want to be at the other extreme, where nobody can get credit."

He further noted that the announcement today is not about who qualifies for a home loan, but making loans more affordable for those who would have qualified prior to the change in policy.

Under the new policy, the average homeowner with a $200,000 loan can expect to save $84 a month. Asked whether that is enough to get first-time homebuyers off the fence, he said it helps and that it is part of a confluence of currents, including low mortgage rates and gas prices and moderating home prices.