New foreclosure prevention efforts won't help jobless

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The much-discussed programs to modify or refinance unaffordable loans that lenders and the government have created are designed for borrowers burned by costly adjustable-rate loans.

The best of the bunch are willing to lower the interest rate or reduce the principal to shrink borrowers' monthly payments to between 31% and 38% of their income.

But what if you have no income?

The programs aren't designed to help borrowers who can't pay their mortgages because they're out of work, according to

So, if you're falling into foreclosure the old-fashioned way -- by losing your job and running out of savings -- you also may run out of luck.

That's a problem because unemployed homeowners are likely to spur the next wave of foreclosures.

In June, 45.5% of all delinquencies reported by Freddie Mac were due to unemployment or the loss of income -- up from 36.3% in 2006.

The nation's unemployment rate rose from 6.5% to 6.7% in November. If more out-of-work homeowners fall into foreclosure, it could drag down home prices even more and further weaken the economy.

If you're unemployed and have a good chance of landing a comparable job soon, you may be able to get a short-term modification or forbearance from your lender.

That allows you to make smaller payments or no payments for up to a year. When you're employed again, you'll have to pay back the difference.

If you don't have many job prospects, your loan servicer may allow you to do a short sale, and the bank will forgive the difference between the sale price and the mortgage balance.

If you're current, make sure you can cover your mortgage if you lose your job by starting a rainy-day fund.

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