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The Hill: On the Money Blog: Dem lawmakers: Fix HAMP, don't kill it

March 28, 2011
In The News

by Peter Schroeder

A coalition of 50 House Democrats are calling on the Obama administration to overhaul one of its key housing relief programs, as Republicans are pushing to eliminate it.

In a letter sent Monday to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the lawmakers, led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), say the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) has been "disappointing" and is in need of major improvements.

However, they also draw a clear line in the sand between their thoughts on the program and those of their Republican colleagues. A bill to eliminate the program will be considered on the House floor Tuesday.

"Make no mistake, our criticisms of HAMP should be in no way construed as support for the Republican position that we should precipitiously let the 'market bottom-out' in orde to begin our housing recovery," they wrote. "In fact, we believe that the 'market bottoming-out' is simply a euphemism for more families losing their homes, and more children being uprooted from their communities."

While designed to help 3 to 4 million struggling homeowners modify their mortgages, the program has made just over 600,000 modifications since being created.

"It is clear to us that HAMP must change in order to reach its potential in helping American families," the lawmakers wrote.

They go on to ask the Treasury to make a number of changes to whip the program into shape. Specific requests include establishing a single point of contact for borrowers navigating the program, and halting the "dual track" process where foreclosure proceedings are allowed to advance while a borrower is pursuing a mortgage modification. They also ask the Treasury to being levying fines and penalties on mortgage servicers that fail to follow program rules.

The letter comes as House Republicans have made a major push in the last month to eliminate several of the administration's housing relief programs, calling them wasteful and ineffective. The House GOP is pushing four measures, each of which would eliminate a program. However, the Obama administration has threatened to veto each measure if they were to reach his desk.