Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bush announces mortgage rate freeze plan

President Bush announced on Thursday a plan to freeze interest rates for five years for hundreds of thousands of strapped homeowners whose mortgages are scheduled to rise in the coming months.

"There is no perfect solution," he said. "The homeowners deserve our help. The steps I've outlined today are a sensible response to a serious challenge."

Seeking to counter criticism he is violating his free-market principles, Bush said the private-sector plan does not represent the imposition of a government solution to the mortgage crisis.

"We should not bail out lenders, real estate speculators or those who made the reckless decision to buy a home they knew they could not afford," he said.

Bush said that 1.2 million people could be eligible for help under the plan, developed in negotiations with the mortgage industry led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. But only a small fraction of that number will be subject to the rate freeze. Others would get assistance in refinancing with their lenders and moving into loans secured by the Federal Housing Administration, Bush said.

And the help only comes to those who ask for it, he said. Thousands of borrowers who are falling behind on their payments have been sent letters about the options, and Bush also urged people to call a new hot line: 1-888-995-HOPE.


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