House passes plan to expand FHA's role in mortgages, housing grants


By MARCY GORDON             Associated Press           September 18, 2007


WASHINGTON - The House on Tuesday approved a plan to expand federal backing of mortgages in hopes of helping struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.  

The bill, which passed the House 348-72, would allow the Federal Housing Administration, which insures mortgages for low- and middle-income borrowers, to back refinanced loans for tens of thousands of borrowers who are delinquent on payments because their mortgages are resetting to sharply higher rates from low initial ``teaser'' levels. 

The measure is Congress' first stand-alone bill in response to the mortgage-market tumult of the summer, which came amid a rising tide of mortgage defaults and foreclosures. The Senate last week passed spending legislation that includes $200 million to provide aid to nonprofits and other groups that offer counseling and information to help homeowners with high-priced mortgages avoid foreclosure.

 House Republicans sharply objected to a $300 million-a-year fund for grants for affordable rental housing and homeownership assistance for low-income families, which would be financed from FHA revenues -- a plan also opposed by the administration. But the Republicans mostly (CHECK) were swept up to vote for the bill, whose overall thrust they endorsed, in the face of the mortgage crisis.

 ``The American dream is in peril for many families in this country as foreclosures rise and dreams shatter,'' Rep. Betty Sutton, a Democrat from Ohio, a state particularly hard-hit by the default wave, declared in House debate before the vote.



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