Obama Showers Borrowers With Mortgage Relief

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- President Obama unveiled new measures to provide mortgage relief to veterans and service members and announced further initiatives to enable responsible borrowers refinance their loans.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the White House detailed plans that would allow borrowers with federally insured mortgages to refinance loans more cheaply.

The Federal Housing Administration will cut the fees it charges for refinancing loans, the Obama Administration said. The FHA currently charges an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1% of the borrower's loan balance and an additional 1.15% of the balance per year. The up-front premium will be slashed to .01% for streamlined refinancings of loans originated prior to June 1, 2009 and the annual fee for these refinancings will be halved to 0.55% of the balance.

A borrower with $175,000 outstanding on their mortgage can refinance his loan at 4% reducing his monthly payment to $1010 a month. With the lower mortgage premiums, the borrower could reduce their monthly payments to $915 a month, the administration estimates, thus delivering an additional savings per month of $100.

The latest measure is expected to help two to three million borrowers.

Earlier this year, the administration unveiled new measures that would allow all "responsible" homeowners, including those who owe more than their homes are currently worth, save an average $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgages at attractive interest rates.

Under the proposed refinancing program, borrowers with standard non-GSE mortgages (not jumbo loans) who have been current on their payments for at least the last 6 months -- and not skipped more than one payment in the 6 months prior -- and who have a minimum credit score of 580 will be eligible to get their loans refinanced through the FHA into a 4.25% 30-year loan. The plan requires Congressional approval.

The administration also announced a plan to provide relief to service members and veterans, including those wrongfully foreclosed upon or denied a lower interest rate on their mortgages.

Mortgage servicers will be required to conduct a review, overseen by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, of the files of every service member foreclosed upon since 2006 to determine whether anyone was foreclosed upon in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

Servicers will compensate those wrongfully foreclosed upon an amount equal to lost equity, plus interest and $116,785 or an amount provided for the same violation as a result of a review conducted by the banking regulators, whichever is higher.

In addition, servicers will also have to review all files dating back to 2008 and pay any servicemember who was wrongfully charged an interest rate in excess of 6% an amount at least four times the amount wrongfully charged.