The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced it is taking new steps to reach homeowners who could benefit from the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). FHFA Director Mel Watt will join housing experts and community leaders in a town hall-style meeting at the Woodson Regional Library in Chicago on July 8 to discuss the benefits of HARP and encourage the approximately 36,000 Chicago residents still eligible to participate in the program. These borrowers could save $2,000-$3,000 annually by refinancing their mortgage. But many eligible borrowers who would benefit from doing so have failed to take advantage of the HARP program.
FHFA last year launched a nationwide public awareness campaign and HARP.gov to reach eligible borrowers and encourage them to participate in HARP. The campaign will now include town hall-style events in targeted cities that have the highest number of "in-the-money" borrowers who have yet to take advantage of a HARP refinance. 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.
FHFA also unveiled an interactive online map indicating the number of estimated "in-the-money" borrowers eligible for HARP in every zip code, county and metropolitan statistical area in the country. The map is accessible through HARP.gov.
At the Chicago event, Sandra Thompson, FHFA's Deputy Director for Housing Mission and Goals, will moderate a panel discussion featuring Director Watt, officials from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Wells Fargo and a community leader from Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Inc. The event is geared to local community and civic leaders who can share information about HARP with homeowners in the Chicago area. Event attendees will receive a dedicated toolkit specific to Chicago describing in greater detail the elements of HARP and how borrowers stand to benefit from the program. FHFA will announce future HARP events in the coming weeks.
"We know that there are hundreds of thousands of borrowers who can still benefit from HARP and are essentially leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of the program," said Watt. "By engaging directly with local community leaders, faith-based organizations, local elected officials and lenders, our goal is to leverage these trusted sources to reach as many 'in-the-money' borrowers as we can."
To be eligible for HARP, homeowners must meet the following criteria:
►Their loan must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
►Their mortgage must have been originated on or before May 31, 2009.
►Their current loan-to-value ratio must be greater than 80 percent.
►They must be current on their mortgage payments with no late payments in the last six months and no more than one late payment in the last 12 months.