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Who gets help from the mortgage plan?

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Kai Ryssdal: There are, plus or minus, 50 million mortgage holders in this country. The plan the Treasury Department took the wraps off today should help, again, plus or minus, about 9 million of them. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will refinance about half that total — homeowners who owe more than their houses are worth. And the government will pay billions to help the rest — those who can’t make their payments. From Washington, Marketplace’s Steve Henn has more.

STEVE HENN: No one likes the idea of bailing out people who bought houses they couldn’t afford. And after President Obama unveiled the outlines of his plan two weeks ago people got angry. So today White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had a simple message.

ROBERT GIBBS: This is not going to save every person’s home.

Gibbs said people who bought homes they clearly could never afford won’t get help. But…

GIBBS: The president laid out a plan that for the very first time offers help for those that have played by the rules and acted responsibly.

The first part of the plan will help some homeowners who have seen equity in their homes evaporate and now can’t refinance.

The second part pays lenders and loans servicers thousands of dollars to reduce interest rates and even principal on loans that are in danger of defaulting. But only if working out these loan ends up saving the banks money.

JOHN TAYLOR: I’m really seeing the meat on the bone finally of something that I think is going to have massive impact on these foreclosures.

John Taylor is president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Susan Wachter teaches real estate at Wharton. She also sees a lot in these proposals that she likes in these proposals, but…

SUSAN WACHTER: We can not rely on this alone to bring us recovery in the housing market.

The trouble is one in five home owners now owe more than their homes are worth. And in Nevada, Florida and California tens of thousands of homeowners are too far underwater to qualify for the refinancing plan unveiled today.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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