Make Harp 3.0 Happen

Advocating for The Expansion of the Home Affordable Refinance Program

Introducing the HARP 3.0 Bill Tracker

I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner. I’ve pulled all the active Congressional Bills related to HARP 3.0 and put them on a page specifically to track their progress. The link to the page is HARP 3.0 Bill Tracker. I also added a tab to the top menu so that the HARP 3.0 Bill Tracker Page can easily be found.

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Timing is Everything

98% of the posts thus far on makeharp3happen.com have been aimed at efforts to support expanding the HARP program. This post is going to be a little different. There are millions of people that stand to gain if HARP 3.0 is ever to be implemented. But according to FHFA estimates there are 2 million+ home owners that are currently eligible for HARP 2.0 that are not taking advantage. I’m assuming that at least a few of them find there way to this website. Why are these people not using the Home Affordable Refinance Program? There are a lot of theories on why that is, but this quote from an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers a solid clue:

“Many underwater HARP-eligible homeowners have been turned down before, and now they assume they can’t get help,” said Jim Svinth, chief economist for LoanDepot.com.

Timing is everything. Diane, one of the regular commenters on this website, can attest to that. She has been coming to makeharp3happen.com since it’s inception. She learned of a minor eligibility date change to the program made last Fall that changed her HARP eligibility. That change helped very few people. But that isn’t the point. The point is that the real estate market is changing everyday. What you were told previously, or what you thought about eligibility to refinance may no longer be applicable. It doesn’t hurt to try again. My suggestion to any underwater homeowner would be to talk to a mortgage professional at least once a year to find out where you now stand. Maybe like Diane you’ll find out that you now have options.

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Good News For Underwater Oregonians, RAHAPP Extended Statewide

While policy makers at the federal level have failed to help underwater homeowners still struggling from the fallout of the financial crisis of 2008, at least one state is making headway to provide real assistance. Oregon is expanding the Rebuilding American Homeownership Assistance Program (RAHAPP) statewide after an eight month trial in the counties surrounding Portland. Not only is the program being expanded to all counties within the state, the eligibility requirements are also being loosened.

RAHAPP is the HARP-like program known as the “The Merkley Mortgage” proposed by Senator Jeff Merkley. Here is how the program works: The state of Oregon buys the mortgage from borrowers accepted into the program and refinances it into a new 30-year loan with a 5 percent interest rate. Borrowers also have the option to refinance to a 15-year mortgage at a 4 percent rate. The program is designed for homeowners ineligible for HARP 2.0 because their mortgages are not secured by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The startup costs for the program are being funded by the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Funds that were allocated to Oregon in 2010. RAHAPP is designed to be self supporting. Payments from homeowners in the program should cover the costs of any defaults.


This is great news for underwater homeowners in Oregon that have been waiting for HARP 3.0. Other states that have been sitting on, or misusing their Hardest Hit Funds should take note of this program. MakeHarp3Happen created a Change.org petition last year that urged all states that were allocated Hardest Hit Funds to implement “The Merkley Mortgage“. The petition is still active, so please go sign it.

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HARP 3.0 Petition Ends Well Short of the Goal

The HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition is now closed. The final tally was 1509 signatures. I can’t even begin to express how disappointed I am with the result. I never expected to get to the 100,000 signatures needed for the White House to issue a response. But I did expect way more than 1500 signatures. What saddens me the most is how little the media seems to care about the the plight of underwater homeowners. We could get much more traction on this issue if the media fairly and accurately told our story. But to them the financial crisis is ancient history. You are three times more likely to see a story about how much the real estate market is improving than how badly underwater homeowners are still struggling. Anyway, here are some numbers from the petition effort that may interest you.

  • 2628 clicks to the petition were generated from this website
  • the press release announcing the petition recorded 2354 reads
  • the press release recorded 182,841 headline impressions
  • I personally sent 377 emails with petition details to individual journalists/bloggers
  • Only 3 articles were posted that referenced the petition
  • Only 2 journalists replied back to the email I sent

  • Housing Recovery Perceptions Are Hindering HARP 3.0

    HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock:

    Failure of The Obama Administration, Congress, The FHFA, and Other Policy Makers To Implement HARP 3.0 Has Now Reached 815 days 8 hours 23 minutes 54 seconds

    Please click here to sign the HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition
     

    Since launching The HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition two weeks ago it has become painfully evident to me that the perceptions of this sham housing recovery are greatly hampering the efforts of underwater homeowners that are pushing to expand the Home Affordable Refinance Program. The perception held by policy makers, the media, and much of the public is that the housing recovery has resolved the issue of negative equity home ownership. It simply isn’t true. Millions of people are still underwater on their mortgages. And what is really scary is that housing recovery is way softer than most people realize. This sham housing “recovery” has been greatly fueled by investors making all cash purchases and sales of distressed homes. We are a long long way from a true housing recovery. But the cries of assistance have fallen on deaf ears. I spared no expense in blasting a press release to announce the HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition. I followed up that media blitz with hundreds of emails to individual members of the media. The result: two small articles and a couple of email responses from journalists that have promised to check it out. It is actually quite amazing the number of signatures we have managed to garner with virtually no exposure from the media.

     
    What really burns me up is that yesterday the FHFA issued a release that the HARP program has officially passed the 3 million loan mark. The media jumped on this news as an opportunity to declare the HARP program as a great success. This would have been a perfect chance for news organizations to also mention how many people have not been helped by HARP, and how many underwater homeowners could benefit from HARP 3.0. Much like our policy makers, the media has dropped the ball on this under reported story. Even worse is that the HARP program is touted for being a much greater success than it truly is. At the height of the housing crisis more than 15 million homeowners were underwater. Several million other homeowners had so little equity that refinance opportunities outside of HARP weren’t available. Less than 1 out of every 5 homeowners that the HARP program was designed to help have been able to refinance under HARP. 20% is a pretty crummy success rate if you ask me.
     

    Here is the list of media coverage the HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition has received thus far:
    HousingWire.com: Find out who wants to force HARP 3.0
     
    MyMortgageInsider.com: HARP 3: Experts Weigh In on When New HARP Program will Happen
     

    HARP 3.0 Petition Progress and Other News

    HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock:

    Failure of The Obama Administration, Congress, The FHFA, and Other Policy Makers To Implement HARP 3.0 Has Now Reached 815 days 8 hours 23 minutes 54 seconds

    Please click here to sign the HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition
     
    The Petition has passed the one week mark, and now we are in the media blitz phase. Yesterday I sent out a press release to inform the media about the HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock. For this to be successful we really need some media attention. Click here to view the press release.

     
    I need your help to make this thing take off. If you support HARP 3.0 and you want to do something to make it happen, send me an email. My address is marcus(at)makeharp3happen(dot)com.

    Underwater homeowners need to fight for this. Nothing is going to be given to us. In fact, what little assistance that was available to us is being taken away. In 2010 $7.8 billion in “Hardest Hit Funds” were distributed to 18 states to assist struggling underwater homeowners. This money was intended for mortgage relief. States have instead been using the money to demolished blighted properties. Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio have decided instead of distributing money to homeowners headed for foreclosure that they would prefer to destroy homes abandoned by people who have already been kicked out of their houses. Other states are sure to follow suit.
     
    A further insult to underwater homeowners is the expiration of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. The law provided a tax exemption for mortgage debt forgiveness. The exemption expired on December 31, 2013. As it stands now any mortgage debt that is forgiven through a loan modification or short sell is treated as taxable income.
     
    It is time to stand up and fight this insanity! We need to send message. The HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition is your opportunity to be heard. Tell the President, Congress, and other policy makers that enough is enough. We’ve been waiting too long for HARP 3.0. We need it now!
     
    As a final note, don’t forget to support underwater homeowners that own small businesses. I recently wrote about Andrea Greene and the Connecticut Cookie Company. Eating cookies might not Make Harp 3.0 Happen, but they do taste yummy. So go buy some cookies.
     

    The State Of The Union Address and HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition

    HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock:

    Failure of The Obama Administration, Congress, The FHFA, and Other Policy Makers To Implement HARP 3.0 Has Now Reached 815 days 8 hours 23 minutes 54 seconds

    Please click here to sign the HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock Petition

    The President forgot about us. The 2014 State of Union Address contained no mentions of underwater homeowners. Nothing about HARP or HARP 3.0 or #myrefi or a grand refinance plan for responsible homeowners. We have been abandoned. It is time to send a message. I want to put a HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock in the White House to remind policy makers how long they have failed us.

     
    HARP 3.0 was essentially born when President Obama laid out his plan for a broad based refinancing plan to help responsible home owners with little or negative home equity during the 2012 State of The Union Address. It is now two years later and nothing has been accomplished. I’m taking a suggestion from one of my readers and highlighting this failure of our policy makers by placing a HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock on the website. The clock is being set at January 24, 2012, the night of the 2012 State of The Union Address and the birth of the HARP 3.0 movement. The HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock is a symbol of how long the President, Congress, The FHFA, and even the media have failed us. I’ve also created a new petition requesting the administration install a HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock in the White House to remind our policy makers how badly they have failed the millions of Americans that are still underwater on their mortgages. Please go to http://wh.gov/lNIIm and sign the petition. The White House is owned by the American people, and if we want to put a clock in there we should be able to. Hopefully the mere sight of the HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock embarrasses our government leaders into taking some real action.

    WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
    Help Underwater Homeowners. Install a CountUp Clock in the White House to remind policy makers of failure to pass HARP 3


    During the 2012 State of The Union Address President Obama laid out his plan for a broad based refinancing plan to help all responsible home owners with little or negative home equity. This plan, known as HARP 3.0, is desperately needed by millions of underwater homeowners. It is now two years later and nothing has been accomplished with HARP 3.0. The President, Congress, The FHFA, and other policy makers have failed us. As a reminder of this failure we suggest a HARP 3.0 Count Up Clock be installed in the White House Entrance Hall. Perhaps the embarrassment of this Count Up Clock will urge policy makers to finally Make Harp 3 Happen.

    Treasury Adviser Wants HARP 3.0 for Non-GSEs, But Opposes Extending Cutoff Date

    Michael Stegman of the U.S. Treasury, and a trusted housing adviser to the Obama Administration, delivered a speech at an industry conference this week in which he reiterated his support for expanding HARP for non-Fannie and non-Freddie loans.

    “We must not forget about the inability of performing underwater borrowers whose loans are held in private label security trusts to access refinancing”

    -Michael Stegman, U.S. Treasury Housing Adviser

    Stegman has been a proponent of a HARP-like program for Non-GSEs since he joined the Treasury. He has pleaded with Congress to pass a solution and has spoken in support of the “Merkley Mortgage”. Last year he suggested the Treasury would consider a Plan B implementation without Congressional approval. In his speech this week he backed off of those remarks.

     
    However, not all underwater homeowners should consider Michael Stegman an ally. Stegman stated he opposes changing the May 31, 2009 HARP eligibility cutoff date. In fact, he completely downplayed the importance of the date.

    “Very few homeowners whose loans were originated after the cut-off date are underwater”, said Stegman.

    I’m not sure where Mr. Stegman gets his data, but I beg to differ. If he read some of the comments left by people on makeharp3happen.com he might change his mind.
     

    This is what is so incredibly frustrating about HARP and HARP 3.0 proposals. Bureaucrats keep piecemealing solutions. It is time to stop cherry picking winners and losers. Underwater homeowners deserve a comprehensive home refinance solution that leaves no one behind.
     

    What Does HARP 3.0 Have To Do With Cookies?

    This past week makeharp3happen.com turned one year old. It has been both an incredibly rewarding and an incredibly frustrating year. While the lack of progress with Harp 3.0 has been frustrating, the correspondence I’ve had with readers of the site has been an awesome experience. My New Year’s Resolution for 2014 is to focus on the positives in my life. So, I’ve been pondering lately how this site can help make a positive impact while also leading the charge to Make Harp 3 Happen. Then it hit me. If underwater homeowners could rally support for each other beyond just advocating for the expansion of the Home Affordable Refinance Program, then maybe we can help each other make a positive difference in our lives. We can’t count on the government to pull us up from underwater, but if we all act as little lifeguards maybe we can still do something to get us back to the surface a little faster. But what exactly can we do for each other? And what does this all have to do with cookies?

    Well, in the past few weeks while I’ve been thinking about this stuff I noticed one of my twitter followers who was often retweeting my posts. Her name is Andrea Greene and she is the founder of the Connecticut Cookie Company. I was intrigued so I sent her an email to ask about her situation. Here is her story. Andrea lost her corporate job a few years ago. That was a double whammy for her. Her home has also plummeted 50% of its original purchase value. She doesn’t qualify for HARP in its current form. Her loan modification requests have been denied as she is not considered a hardship case. Like millions of other Americans she is stuck waiting for HARP 3.0. After losing her job she decided it was time for a change. Baking cookies was of one of Andrea’s passions, so she founded the Connecticut Cookie Company. Unfortunately, Andrea and her husband are so far underwater she has not been able to completely commit to her cookie baking business. She also juggles consulting jobs to help pay the bills on her severely underwater home. I want to help change that. I want Andre to be so busy filling cookie orders that she no longer has to juggle other jobs and she can commit fully to growing the Connecticut Cookie Company into a successful business. So please, if you have the means go visit the Connecticut Cookie Company and buy some cookies. I’m going to do my part by buying some macaroons.

    The housing crisis did not discriminate. People from all walks of life were affected. That includes many small business owners. If you are an underwater homeowner unable to use HARP and you also run small business I’d like to hear from you. Follow @makeharp3happen on twitter and then send me an email to marcus at makeharp3happen dot com. I might profile your business next.

    HARP 3.0 News, Links, and Notes

  • Barry Ritholtz wrote an opinion piece on Bloomberg.com calling HARP The Best Housing Program You’ve Never Heard Of. I’m sure those of you reading this website would beg to to differ. We know all about HARP. We know its flaws and we know its potential. Sadly, Barry is correct. HARP has helped nearly 3 million homeowners to date. It is hard to find a housing initiative run by the government that helped so many people. Unfortunately, HARP has still fallen woefully short of what it could and should be. There are still more than 9.25 million homeowners considered significantly underwater, plus another 3 or 4 million that are slightly underwater. There are another 4 million or so homeowners with so little equity in their home that HARP would be the only viable refinance option if they could qualify. When the housing market bottomed out in 2012 there were 15 million homeowners significantly underwater. When you break it all down, HARP has helped less than 20% of the people that have needed it. You know what happens to a baseball player with a batting average less that .200? They get sent to the minor leagues to work on their game. It is time for HARP to get sent down to the minors to work on its swing so it can bat a little better.


  • The Government has rolled out a new website to raise awareness and provide information for HARP. The website is HARP.gov. So we have a new HARP website just rolled out and the State of Union Address coming up in two weeks. It seems very likely the Home Affordable Refinance Program is going to be one of President Obama’s main talking points that night. This is all good news, but we know talk is cheap. We don’t need a new government website for HARP. We need a new HARP program. We need HARP 3.0.

  • Look for a new feature that will be coming soon to makeharp3happen.com. I’ll be profiling underwater homeowners that need HARP 3.0, and are also small business owners. I’m urging everyone support each other by patronizing businesses of HARP 3.0 supporters.

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