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The Federal Housing Administration’s Hope for Homeowners program launched on Wednesday to very little news coverage or fanfare. Here are the features of the program, according to the FHA.

  • 30-year, fixed rate mortgage
  • Maximum 90 percent loan-to-value ratio
  • No prepayment penalties
  • $550,440 maximum mortgage amount
  • Extinguishment of any subordinate liens
  • New home appraisals from FHA-approved appraisers.

    Two media outlets that have covered the new program are the Washington Post and NPR. Neither story was terribly optimistic.

    The Post article touches on the fact that many people simply have too much debt to qualify for the program.

    Mary Dade, the housing counseling program manager for United Communities Against Poverty, a nonprofit community-action agency in Capitol Heights, said many of the people coming in for help simply have too much debt — of all types — to enable them to keep their homes. “We do have a problem with the economy right now,” she said. “Just the amount of debt you see is overwhelming.”

    NPR also says that the qualifications are too restrictive to help many in need.

    But Bruce Marks, CEO of the nonprofit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, isn’t convinced. He says there are major restrictions on who will qualify.

    “There are four major roadblocks,” Marks says. “Any one of these roadblocks will stop someone from refinancing: Property values are too low. People’s credit scores are too low. The underwriting criteria are too restrictive. And second mortgages will not get out of the way.”