Obama Administration Plans Loans for Jobless, Mortgage Aid, Donovan Says

The Obama administration plans to set up an emergency loan program for the unemployed and a government mortgage refinancing effort in the next few weeks to help homeowners after home sales dropped in July, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said.

“The July numbers were worse than we expected, worse than the general market expected, and we are concerned,” Donovan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program yesterday. “That’s why we are taking additional steps to move forward.”

The administration will begin a Federal Housing Authority refinancing effort to help borrowers who are struggling to pay their mortgages, and will start an emergency homeowners’ loan program for unemployed borrowers so they can stay in their homes, Donovan said.

“We’re going to continue to make sure folks have access to home ownership,” he said.

Sales of U.S. new homes unexpectedly dropped in July to the lowest level on record, signaling that even with cheaper prices and reduced borrowing costs the housing market is retreating. Purchases fell 12 percent from June to an annual pace of 276,000, the weakest since the data began in 1963.

Sales of existing houses plunged by a record 27 percent in July as the effects of a government tax credit waned, showing a lack of jobs threatens to undermine the U.S. economic recovery.

House Sales Plummet

Purchases plummeted to a 3.83 million annual pace, the lowest in a decade of record keeping and worse than the most pessimistic forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed last week. Demand for single-family houses dropped to a 15-year low and the number of homes on the market swelled.

U.S. home prices fell 1.6 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier as record foreclosures added to the inventory of properties for sale. The annual drop followed a 3.2 percent decline in the first quarter, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said last week in a report.

Donovan said on CNN yesterday that it is too soon to say whether the administration’s $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit tax credit, which expired April 30, will be revived.

“All I can tell you is that we are watching very carefully,” Donovan said. “We’re going to be focused like a laser on where the housing market is moving going forward, and we are going to go everywhere we can to make sure this market stabilizes and recovers.”

Reviving the tax credit would “help enormously” in the effort to fight foreclosures and revive the economy, Florida Governor Charlie Crist said on the same CNN program. Florida has the third-highest home foreclosure rate in the country, with one in every 171 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at hrosenkrantz@bloomberg.net.

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