FHASecure not saving many homes

Dollar bills shaped like a house

The Federal Housing Administration's Secure program hasn't helped as many homeowners as the government predicted, but new regulations should let more borrowers get FHA-backed loans.

Launched in August 2007, the White House touted the FHASecure program as a major government initiative to help delinquent homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Indeed, it was the first time the FHA was allowed to help homeowners who had missed payments on unaffordable, adjustable-rate mortgages refinance into fixed-rate loans.

The Bush administration projected that FHASecure would help 60,000 borrowers.

But through mid-November 2008, the program refinanced just 4,000 delinquent mortgages, and Steve Preston, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was forced to acknowledged that it "has really not met the need."

Why?

FHASecure relaxed the rules, but not enough.

To be eligible, borrowers had to have an ARM that had reset, at least 3% equity in their homes and have made 10 on-time payments in the previous 12 months.

Housing counselors say many families who need FHASecure couldn't meet all of those criteria. Some had defaulted on their loans before the interest rate ever changed. Others had missed more than two payments.

The government tried to fix FHASecure in July by loosening the eligibility requirements to accept borrowers:

But very few borrowers in this situation have that much equity in their homes. That means they couldn't take part in the program without their lenders voluntarily writing off a portion of their debt -- something they've been extremely reluctant to do.

As a result, the changes didn't help much.