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  • For the last four years, HAMP, the Home Affordable Modification Program has been one of the big sources of help for struggling homeowners. The government mortgage help program provides homeowners with a variety of options to save their mortgage. However, not everybody qualifies for the Home Affordable Modification Program. Fannie Mae introduced the Payment Reduction Plan, also known as PRP, as an alternative for those who could not qualify for HAMP. As of January 1st, 2012, this option is no longer available.

    Why has Fannie Mae cancelled this relief program? According to press releases from Fannie Mae, the volume of applications and existing homeowners in the program did not justify keeping it running. The Payment Reduction Plan started on October 26, 2009, and was first designed as a bridge program to help those who were trying to qualify for HAMP. It later developed into an alternative for homeowners who did not meet the criteria for the Home Affordable Modification Program. The main attraction of the PRP is it didn’t only reduce monthly payments, it reduced the mortgage principal and the mortgage interest rates, which provided “real” help to homeowners. For instance, a homeowner in the Payment Reduction Program could benefit from a reduction of 30 percent in monthly mortgage payments.

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    This is in stark contrast of so-called modification programs that simply extend the term of the mortgage or attach late payments to the end of the mortgage. Unfortunately, the application process for the Payment Reduction Plan seems to have been less streamlined as its creators had intended and the volume of successful candidates has dropped in the last two years.

    Sadly, the Payment Reduction Plan was itself a downscaling of the previous “best mortgage rate reduction” in town: Fannie’s HomeSaver Forbearance Program. The HomeSaver Forbearance Program offered homeowners who were struggling with their mortgage payments a reduction of up to 50 percent for qualifying candidates. The argument Fanny Mae offered for the drop in mortgage reduction offered by their PRP program was that 30 percent was a more realistic and “permanent” reduction for mortgage servicers. It seems 30 percent is no longer a realistic or permanent solution either.

    Nevertheless, homeowners looking for government help for their mortgages still have options to consider. For instance, eligible applicants can apply for the Forbearance Relief program Fannie Mae plans to launch in March 2012. The Forbearance Relief program is designed, as the PRP was, to cater for homeowners who do not qualify for the mainstream modification programs, such as unemployed homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments.

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