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Fannie Mae to Rent Foreclosed Homes to Their Owners

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By Amy Hoak

RISMEDIA, November 14, 2009— (MCT)—Qualifying homeowners facing foreclosure will be able to stay in their homes—as renters—under a new program announced recently by Fannie Mae.

The Deed for Lease Program is designed to help borrowers who aren’t eligible or haven’t been able to sustain other work-out solutions, including a modification, according to a news release.

Participating borrowers voluntarily transfer their property deed back to the lender; the lender then leases the house back to the borrower at a market rate for up to a year. After the period is up, there’s a possibility of a term renewal or a month-to-month lease arrangement, the release said.

“The Deed for Lease Program provides an additional option for qualifying homeowners who are facing foreclosure and are not eligible for modifications,” said Jay Ryan, vice president of Fannie Mae, in the release. “This new program helps eliminate some of the uncertainty of foreclosure, keeps families and tenants in their homes during a transitional period, and helps to stabilize neighborhoods and communities.”

To qualify, the home must be the borrower’s primary residence, and he or she needs to be released from any subordinate liens on the property. The borrower also has to document that the new market rental rate doesn’t exceed 31% of his or her gross income.

“This policy takes advantage of the fact that in many former bubble markets, ownership costs are likely to be far higher than the cost of renting an equivalent unit, if the homeowner purchased their home near the peak of the market. In many cases this gap can be dramatic,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in a separate release.

“For example, the savings on a moderate-priced home purchased near the peak of the market in the Washington, D.C., area could be more than $1,300 a month. The gap between ownership costs and renting in the Los Angeles area could be almost $2,000 a month,” he said. “Many homeowners who could not sustain mortgages based on the original purchase price, even with sharp reductions in interest rates, can afford the market rent.”

Baker called the Deed for Lease Program a “very big step” toward giving families facing foreclosure more housing security.

“Families that like their home, their neighborhood, or the schools for their children will have the opportunity to stay in their house even after foreclosure,” he said. “This is also good policy for neighborhoods that have been hard-hit by foreclosures. The Deed for Lease Program will keep the homes occupied rather than being an eyesore and a potential safety hazard.”

But Baker does have one criticism of the program: He said the guaranteed lease period should be longer than a year—possibly contingent on timely rent payments and proper upkeep. “Nonetheless, the new policy by Fannie Mae is an important step forward in dealing with the housing crisis,” he said.

(c) 2009, MarketWatch.com Inc.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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