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Washington Report: FHA Still Going Strong

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The country’s top housing official has an urgent message for potential home buyers: You may have heard that the credit markets were ‘frozen,’ but FHA has been open for business throughout the credit squeeze, and so are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In fact, FHA’s volume has tripled and the agency is now insuring well over a hundred thousand new loans a month.

In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Realty Times, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston said that FHA, Fannie and Freddie — who account for a combined 90 percent plus share of the entire U.S. mortgage market — ‘have kept liquidity alive’ for home buyers — and have virtually unlimited funds for new mortgages.

‘There is no credit crisis’ for individual home buyers who have at least three percent to put down, documentable employment, and at least a moderately good credit record, said Preston.

Business loans and various other types of credit may have been more difficult to obtain in recent weeks, Preston told Realty Times, but thanks to the government’s backing of the three biggest sources of mortgages, buyers and refinancers of houses have had no unusual problems.

Preston and HUD are playing key roles in the $700 billion financial system bailout plan now getting underway. Preston is one of just five members of the Financial Stability Oversight Board that oversees the entire effort. HUD’s main task in the weeks ahead, he said, will be to either refinance or help work out thousands of delinquent subprime and underwater homes financed by private lenders during the boom years.

The agency’s new ‘Hope for Homeowners’ program, which started October 1, allows it to cut the principal debt, monthly payments and interest rates of delinquent loans through refinancings into fixed-rate FHA mortgages.

In the interview, Preston emphasized the importance of a new, $3.9 billion program that has received virtually no attention in the press, but which could have huge positive impacts on neighborhoods and communities struggling with large numbers of foreclosures.

Congress authorized HUD to provide funds and other assistance to local governments to buy, fix up, resell or rent out foreclosed houses that are dragging down local property values.

Known as the Neighborhood Stabilization program, it offers not only roles for local governments to fight housing blight, but also provides opportunities for alert realty agents, rehab contractors, builders and investors to be involved — profitably — in the turnaround efforts.

If you’re interested, talk to your city or county housing and community development officials for details. Though HUD will be providing the funds, local officials will be calling the shots.

Written by Kenneth R. Harney for www.RealtyTimescom. Copyright