HARP falls short of expectations for mortgage refinancing

A mortgage application

Steve Chiotakis: The Federal Housing Finance Agency says it might expand a program that makes it easier for some people to refinance their home loans. The program hasn't served as many people as it set out to.

From New York, Marketplace's Stacey Vanek-Smith has more.


Stacey Vanek-Smith: HARP -- the Home Affordable Refinance Program -- was started back in 2009. Under it, more than 800,000 homeowners have refinanced their mortgage loans and have lowered their monthly payments. That is a far cry from the 5 million homeowners the program was supposed to reach, but that gap isn't a surprise to housing market analyst Keith Gumbinger.

Keith Gumbinger: These kinds of mass programs that try to address failing borrowers really try to make a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem which is not a one-size-fits-all problem.

One proposed change would allow more homeowners to apply for the program. It would lift the limit on how far underwater an eligible homeowner could be. Underwater is when someone owes more on their house than their house is worth. Greg McBride of Bankrate.com says he thinks that tweak alone could help.

Greg McBride: All the sudden you have a lot of people in the hardest hit markets that now become eligible to refinance at today's lower rates. And if they're able to reduce their monthly payments, that's money that can be pumped back into the economy or used to accelerate the repayment of that mortgage.

Still, McBride doesn't see the housing market improving anytime soon. He says home prices aren't going to rise until job growth does.

In New York, I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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