We are racing towards the end of the Home Affordable Refinance Program. It is set to expire in 14 months. Legislative efforts to expand the program to include underwater homeowners with non-GSE held loans has never been able to gain any traction in Congress due to partisanship politics. Partisanship and gridlock is never going to end, so that avenue for enacting HARP 3.0 is essentially a dead end. The slimmest of hopes for this plan are on President Obama. The only way HARP 3.0 will happen is if the President implements it through executive order. Advisors with the U.S. Treasury hinted at the possibility of executive order as far back as January 2013:
However, we will also consider non-legislative means at our disposal to help responsible non-GSE homeowners access these low rates. To be the most effective, as well as address investor concerns, the legislative route would be preferable to using existing Making Home Affordable program authority.
-Michael Stegman, U.S. Treasury Housing Adviser – 1/29/13
In February of 2013 the Washington Post reported that President Obama was indeed considering an executive order to expand HARP.
One of the more significant moves under consideration is in housing. Obama is weighing whether to use his executive authority to give more of the country’s nearly 11 million struggling homeowners a chance to refinance at today’s ultra-low interest rates, according to the Treasury Department and others in talks with the administration on the issue.
The executive order never happened. Either the President lacked the backbone to actually use an executive order, or it was simply an idle threat lobbed at Republicans. Regardless, we are still waiting for it. Unless the President decides to actually care about this issue and do something about it, HARP 3.0 will not happen.
We passed a very depressing milestone on July 25th. That marked one year since Congress last considered legislation that would expand the Home Affordable Refinance Program. S.1373 – Rebuilding American Homeownership Act of 2013 (and all other HARP 3.0 related bills) have been sitting idle in the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee for an entire year. Congress is completely unwilling to move HARP 3.0 forward, and FHFA Director Mel Watt is making no efforts to assist either. Mr. Watt is steadfastly refusing to make any changes to the program without the approval of Congress, even changes he is empowered to make. The current outlook for HARP 3.0 is bleak. It appears the Home Affordable Refinance Program is going to wind down until its date of December 31, 2015 with no more changes coming. There really isn’t much we can do at this point other that vote out all these scoundrels in the mid-term elections coming this fall.
The only new piece of HARP information I have to pass on is that the FHFA HARP outreach program is continuing on. The second in a series of townhall style meetings intended to reach homeowners still eligible for the program has been scheduled for Thursday, August 14 at 11 AM in Atlanta. If you live in Atlanta and would like to attend here is the address:
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Sr.
Community Resource Complex, Assembly Hall
101 Jackson Street, NE Atlanta, GA 30312
I would assume most people that read this blog know their HARP eligibility, but if you are uncertain please click one of the sponsor links/banners on this website for more information.
As hope for HARP 3.0 dwindles, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is making greater efforts to reach home owners currently eligible for the HARP program that have yet to take advantage. Starting in July the FHFA will conduct town hall style meetings in locations with the highest number of “in the money” HARP eligibles. Borrowers are considered “in-the-money” if they meet the basic HARP eligibility requirements, have a remaining balance of either $50,000 or more on their mortgage, have a remaining term on their mortgage greater than 10 years, and their mortgage interest rate is at least 1.5 percent higher than current market rates. The first town hall meeting will take place July 8th in Chicago at the Woodson Regional Library. FHFA Director Mel Watt along with housing experts and community leaders will be on hand to discuss the benefits of the HARP program. The FHFA believes the Chicago area has 36,000 “in the money” borrowers that could benefit from a HARP refinance. The FHFA also plans to do town hall style events in Atlanta, Detroit, and Miami later this year. The date and venues for those events have yet to be determined.
Frankly, I’m skeptical of the estimates of the borrowers yet to take advantage of the program. Every month I get mail from Ocwen, my mortgage servicer, urging me to call them about a HARP refinance. It is not uncommon for me to get HARP refinance offers from other mortgage companies like Quicken Loans too. I know I’m not currently HARP eligible. Why am I getting so much junk mail to refinance with HARP? I think the FHFA should be working to help make more people eligible for program. Regardless of my feelings, getting people that can take advantage of the HARP programs to do so is a noble effort. There are many advertiser links on this site for mortgage services that can help you refinance with HARP. So if you think you may be eligible to HARP there is no need to attend a town hall style meeting Chicago to find out. Just click one of the advertiser links and get started.
Yesterday Mel Watt spoke at the Brookings Institution on the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It was his first public speech since taking over as Director of the FHFA. The news was not good for those of us who have been fighting for the Home Affordable Refinance Program to be expanded. Mr. Watt signaled that the FHFA will make no effort to advance HARP 3.0. The FHFA will continue to operate HARP under the current guidelines, eligibility dates, and regulations. Here is was Mel Watt’s remarks concerning the HARP program:
We have also received a number of inquiries about changing the eligibility requirements for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). Because the number of borrowers we could add by extending the eligibility date or by changing performance requirements is relatively small, we have decided not to alter HARP eligibility parameters. FHFA is, however, working to retarget our HARP outreach efforts to the approximately 750,000 borrowers who already qualify and would financially benefit from refinancing.
We were led to believe that a change in leadership at the FHFA would help HARP 3.0. More lies and broken promises. Mel Watt is no better than Ed DeMarco.
I am posting these widgets as an easy way for you to write Congress and tell them to support legislation related to HARP 3.0 that is currently stalled in committee. There are three such widgets/bills. Submit once for each to tell Congress to Make HARP 3 Happen!
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.
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.
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.
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
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 1061 days 17 hours 39 minutes 35 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