Home Affordable Modification Program
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The Home Affordable Modification Program, also known as H.A.M.P., is a federal program of the United States, set up to help eligible home owners with loan modifications on their home mortgage debt. It is being set up in the context of the ongoing subprime mortgage crisis in the debt markets, continuing from 2008.
The target of the program is 7 to 8 million struggling homeowners at risk of foreclosure by working with their lenders to lower monthly mortgage payments. On February 10, 2009, Timothy Geithner, then-Treasury Secretary, announced the Financial Stability Plan, which included helping families and individuals who are struggling with home foreclosure. H.A.M.P. is part of the Making Home Affordable program, which was established, alongside the Hardest Hit Fund program in February 2010 for the Obama Administration's overall housing plan, on March 4, 2009 in the Treasury under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) - a part of the October 3, 2008 law, Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. The program was built as collaboration with lenders, investors, securities, mortgage servicers, the FHA, the VA, FHLMC, FNMA, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to create standard loan modification guidelines for lenders to take into consideration when evaluating a borrower for a potential loan modification.
- 1 Purpose
- 2 Eligibility requirements of program
- 3 Loan modification terms and procedures
- 4 Payments to servicers, lenders, and responsible borrowers
- 5 Transparency and accountability
- 6 Proliferation of scams from companies claiming to offer loan modifications
- 7 Lender participants
- 8 Controversy over effectiveness
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
HAMP is authorized by sections 101 and 109 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which has been amended by section 7002 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (collectively "The Acts"). Congress has several enumerated purposes under the Acts. The main purpose is to provide the U.S. Treasury Department with the authority and mechanisms necessary to restore stability to the United States' financial system—which includes—(1) protecting home values, college funds, retirement accounts, and life savings, (2) preserving homeownership, (3) promoting jobs and economic growth, and (4) protecting the interests of taxpayers. 
As a result of the authority it received under the Acts, the U.S. Treasury Department developed HAMP. Under HAMP, mortgage servicers (Mortgage servicer refers to financial institutions which are paid a fee to service a loan for an investor. example: Joes bank and trust 'services' loans for Fannie Mae and in return receives payment for the service being provided) are provided with guidelines to which they must adhere. Financial institutions follow the guideline set by the Federal Government (the U.S. Treasury), to modify homeowners' mortgage loans in a particular and uniform fashion and receive incentive payments in return.
In an attempt to require mortgage servicers to modify mortgages in a particular and uniform fashion, the U.S. Treasury has taken several actions. First, the U.S. Treasury not only describes HAMP and its related programs on its own publicly accessed website (www.hmpadmin.com), but also provides a step-by-step guide on how mortgage servicers are supposed to perform the HAMP modifications. For example, in the HAMP Handbook for Servicers of Non-GSE Mortgages, the U.S. Treasury requires these servicers to actively solicit borrowers to participate in HAMP before referring a loan to foreclosure or conducting a scheduled foreclosure sale.
Second, the U.S. Treasury requires servicers to use a particular net present value calculation developed specifically for HAMP ("HAMP NPV"). The HAMP NPV was developed specifically for HAMP by a group of experts taken from the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. The HAMP NPV attempts to predict whether the lender/investor will make more money by modifying the mortgage or foreclosing. Under HAMP, if the lender will make more money entering into a HAMP modification with the borrower (resulting in a positive HAMP NPV)—and assuming the mortgage loan is otherwise eligible under HAMP (which is discussed below)—the lender must offer a HAMP modification and cease all current efforts to foreclose. However, if the lender will lose more money entering into a HAMP modification with the borrower (resulting in a negative HAMP NPV), the lender may proceed with foreclosure.
Thus, under HAMP, lenders and/or mortgage servicers are required to make a conscious and calculated determination as to whether the pursuit of a foreclosure will be financially beneficial for the lender/investor before the foreclosure is actively pursued—which presumptively should result in fewer foreclosures—thereby providing more stability to the U.S. economy and achieving the purpose intended by the United States Congress.
Eligibility requirements of program
The program abides by the following eligibility and verification criteria:
- Loans originated on or before January 1, 2009
- First-lien loans on owner-occupied properties with unpaid principal balance up to $729,750
- Higher limits allowed for owner-occupied properties with 2-4 units
- The current principal, interest, property taxes and homeowner's insurance payments are costing the borrower(s) over 31% of their gross monthly household income.
- All borrowers must fully document income, including signed IRS 4506-T, proof of income (i.e. paystubs or tax returns), and must sign an affidavit of financial hardship
- Property owner occupancy status will be verified through borrower credit report and other documentation; no investor-owned, vacant, or condemned properties
- Incentives to lenders and servicers to modify at-risk borrowers who have not yet missed payments when the servicer determines that the borrower is at imminent risk of default
- Modifications can start from now until December 31, 2016; loans can be modified only once under the program
Loan modification terms and procedures
- Participating servicers are required to service all eligible loans under the rules of the program unless explicitly prohibited by contract; servicers are required to use reasonable efforts to obtain waivers of limits on participation.
- Participating loan servicers will be required to use a net present value (NPV) test on each loan that is at risk of imminent default or at least 60 days delinquent. The NPV test will compare the net present value of cash flows with modification and without modification. If the test is positive: meaning that the net present value of expected cash flow is greater in the modification scenario: the servicer must modify absent fraud or a contract prohibition.
- Parameters of the NPV test are spelled out in the guidelines, including acceptable discount rates, property valuation methodologies, home price appreciation assumptions, foreclosure costs and timelines, and borrower cure and redefault rate assumptions.
- Servicers will follow a specified sequence of steps in order to reduce the monthly payment to no more than 31% of gross monthly income (DTI).
- The modification sequence requires first reducing the interest rate (subject to a rate floor of 2% for the first 5 years, gradually adjusting upward 1% per year to the prevailing rates at the time of modification), then if necessary extending the term or amortization of the loan up to a maximum of 40 years, and then if necessary forbearing principal. Principal forgiveness or a Hope for Homeowners refinancing are acceptable alternatives.
- The monthly payment includes principal, interest, taxes, insurance, flood insurance, homeowner’s association and/or condominium fees. Monthly income includes wages, salary, overtime, fees, commissions, tips, social security, pensions, and all other income.
- Servicers must enter into the program agreements with Treasury's financial agent on or before December 31, 2009.
Payments to servicers, lenders, and responsible borrowers
- The Program will share with the lender/investor the cost of reductions in monthly payments from 38% DTI to 31% DTI.
- Servicers that modify loans according to the guidelines will receive an up-front fee of $1,000 for each modification, plus “pay for success” fees on still-performing loans of $1,000 per year for up to three years.
- Homeowners who make their payments on time are eligible for up to $1,000 of principal reduction payments each year for up to five years.
- The program will provide one-time bonus incentive payments of $1,500 to lender/investors and $500 to servicers for modifications made while a borrower is still current on mortgage payments.
- The program will include incentives for extinguishing second liens on loans modified under this program.
- No payments will be made under the program to the lender/investor, servicer, or borrower unless and until the servicer has first entered into the program agreements with Treasury’s financial agent.
- Similar incentives will be paid for Hope for Homeowner refinances.
Transparency and accountability
- Measures to prevent and detect fraud, such as documentation and audit requirements, will be central to the program.
- Servicers will be required to collect, maintain and transmit records for verification and compliance review, including borrower eligibility, underwriting, incentive payments, property verification, and other documentation.
- Freddie Mac is appointed the compliance officer of the program.
Proliferation of scams from companies claiming to offer loan modifications
Throughout 2009 and 2010, foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification scams have been a growing concern. Charging fees before a loan modification is attempted is illegal and considered predatory. Predators are more likely to do business in states with higher numbers of foreclosure or properties at risk for foreclosure such as Illinois and Rhode Island, and in cities such as Phoenix. The Chicago Mortgage Fraud Task Force found eleven companies guilty of committing this type of fraud in the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago. Rhode Island launched a Loan Modification Scam Alert to raise awareness and provide a way for victims to report fraud. At a national level, Neighborworks, a government funded non-profit that works to make housing affordable, launched its own Loan Modification Scam Alert.
The website www.loanscamalert.org launched by Neighborworks lists signs of possible fraud:
- A company asks for a fee in advance
- Guarantees they can stop a foreclosure
- Advises you to stop paying your mortgage company and pay them instead
- Pressures you to sign paperwork
- Claims to offer a government approved loan
- Someone you don't know asks for personal financial information
A complete and updated list of lenders currently signed on is available at the Making Home Affordable website List of HAMP Lenders.
Controversy over effectiveness
A May 2012 Fox Business report has alleged that programs like HAMP modifications are helping only a few homeowners and have not been effective at dealing with the mortgage crisis. The National Taxpayer Union has also argued that HAMP has been grossly ineffective:
HAMP has proven a colossal failure that has done more to harm than help debt-laden homeowners. Having only achieved slightly more than 500,000 permanent modifications, 40% of which the Treasury expects to default, HAMP has fallen dramatically short of its goal of helping 3 to 4 million homeowners avoid foreclosure. To date, far more borrowers have dropped out of the program (or were denied eligibility by servicers when, in fact, the homeowner qualified) than successfully achieved permanent loan modification. These borrowers, along with those who later default, will often be left with larger outstanding debt, worse credit scores, and less home equity. Congress should pass legislation that eliminates the HAMP program, to put an end to these counterproductive outcomes while saving taxpayers billions of dollars.
However, the United States Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) conducted its own investigation and reported its findings in its report titled: Mortgage Foreclosures: Documentation Problems Reveal Need for Ongoing Regulatory Oversight. According to the GAO, not only have banking regulators issued enforcement orders to various mortgage servicers for various mortgage servicing deficiencies, but the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the U.S. Treasury have all issued letters to their respective servicers reminding them of their obligations to properly perform and document all of their required mortgage servicing activities. Moreover, according to the GAO:
Further, the regulators’ reviews also revealed that most servicers did not maintain sufficient staffing levels to process the increasing volume of foreclosures, nor were staff adequately trained to perform this work in compliance with relevant laws and regulations. For example, regulators found that one servicer that had previously understaffed this function and had not provided adequate training increased its document-signing staff from 5 to 80 and revised its training to include guidance for judicial foreclosures to address deficiencies in foreclosure processing.
Thus, while there are those who argue that HAMP is ineffective, it appears as if Federal governmental agencies are, at the very least, indirectly suggesting that the mortgage servicers may be to blame. As a result, it appears as if at least one government-sponsored enterprise has taken action that comports with the recommendations of the GAO. For example, Fannie Mae has mandated that all of its servicers in Florida, as mandated by the Florida Supreme Court, must not only take potential foreclosures to mediation before attempting to foreclose—but these same mortgage servicers must (1) submit written pre-foreclosure offers to the homeowners before leaving the mediation and (2) maintain documentation that it submitted such written pre-foreclosure offers to the homeowners at the mediation. Further, recent research by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economists suggests that regions where HAMP was used intensively saw a lower rate of house price decline as well as an increase in the pay-down rate on consumer debt.
- Timothy Geithner, "Secretary Geithner Introduces Financial Stability Plan," Department of the Treasury, Press Center, Press Release, February 10, 2009, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg18.aspx.
- Department of the Treasury, "Making Home Affordable: Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)," Financial Stability Initiative, TARP, http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/TARP-Programs/housing/mha/Pages/hamp.aspx
- Treasury, "Making Home Affordable: Program Purpose and Overview," http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/TARP-Programs/housing/mha/Pages/default.aspx.
- Treasury, "Housing," Initiative, TARP, http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/TARP-Programs/housing/pages/default.aspx; "Hardest Hit Fund: Program Purpose and Overview, Department of the Treasury, Financial Stability, TARP, http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/TARP-Programs/housing/hhf/Pages/default.aspx; and "Hardest Hit Fund: Program Purpose and Overview, Department of the Treasury, Financial Stability, TARP, http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/TARP-Programs/housing/hhf/Pages/Program-Purpose-and-Overview.aspx
- "Relief for Responsible Homeowners: Treasury Announces Requirements for the Making Home Affordable Program," Treasury, Press Center, Press Release, March 4, 2009, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/200934145912322.aspx.
- Treasury, "Housing," Initiative, TARP, http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/TARP-Programs/housing/pages/default.aspx; and Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, Public Law 110-343, 122 Stat. 3765, October 3, 2008, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-110publ343/html/PLAW-110publ343.htm
- "Sample COMMITMENT TO PURCHASE FINANCIAL INSTRUMENT and SERVICER PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT" (PDF). U.S. Treasury. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "EMERGENCY ECONOMIC STABILIZATION" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "HAMP Guidebook for Non-GSE Servicers" (PDF). U.S. Treasury. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Home Affordable Modification Program: Overview". U.S Treasury. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "HAMP Checklist for Getting Started and Participating in HAMP for Non-GSE Loans" (PDF). U.S. Treasury. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "HAMP Handbook for Servicers of Non-GSE Mortgages, Version 3.0" (PDF). U.S. Treasury. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- "HOME AFFORDABLE MODIFICATION PROGRAM BASE NET PRESENT VALUE (NPV)MODEL SPECIFICATIONS" (PDF). U.S. Treasury. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
- "Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP): Checklist for Getting Started and Participating in HAMP for Non-GSE Loans" (PDF). U.S. Treasury. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Mortgage Programs Target Many, Help Few". Mortgage Programs Target Many, Help Few. Fox Business. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
- "NTU Vote Alert: Vote YES on H.R. 839, the HAMP Termination Act of 2011". National Taxpayers Union. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "MORTGAGE FORECLOSURES Documentation Problems Reveal Need for Ongoing Regulatory Oversight" (PDF). United States Government Accountability Office. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Mandatory Pre-filing Mediation Policy for Mortgage Loans in Florida" (PDF). Fannie Mae. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- Policy Intervention in Debt Renegotiation: Evidence from the Home Affordable Modification Program, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, December 2013