More changes could come to the Making Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) that would slow down the foreclosure process in an attempt to qualify more borrowers for mortgage modifications, according to commentary released by DBRS, the Toronto-based credit rating agency. “The findings noted by the Congressional Oversight Panel [COP] may cause further expansion of the upcoming HAMP requirements. These requirements prohibit the referral of a loan to foreclosure until a borrower is evaluated and found ineligible for HAMP, in addition to making it mandatory to consider principal forgiveness on loans with greater than 115% [loan-to-value] LTV,” DBRS said. “As a result, DBRS will continue to monitor the industry for its use of modifications as well as its efforts to implement successful foreclosure mitigation programs,” Mezzanotte added. The latest COP report, issued in mid-April, said HAMP lacked drive, and despite changes to the program to help additional distressed borrowers, the Treasury Department’s response continues to lag well behind the pace of the crisis. “In the final reckoning, the goal itself seems small in comparison to the magnitude of the problem,” the report said. Those changes include opening the program up to borrowers with negative equity and the recently unemployed. Despite the changes, foreclosures continue at a rapid pace. While housing prices are stabilizing in many regions, home values in several markets continue to fall sharply. DBRS believes further changes could come to the program, even as the Treasury Department reports mortgage servicers participating in HAMP converted more than 68,000 trial modifications into permanent status in April, pushing the total to 299,092. While servicers conducted almost 13% more conversions in April than the 57,000 in March, it’s still less than the 72,000 permanent modifications in February, the highest month in the history of the program. It’s been more than a year since the program started and less than 10% of the Obama Administration’s goal of 3m to 4m permanent modifications has been met. The program is currently scheduled to expire in December 2012. Write to Austin Kilgore.
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