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Obama administration reports only 31,382 mortgages have been permanently modified under its program

December 10, 2009 | 12:57 pm

Treasury Department officials said last week that the number of homeowners who had received permanent reductions in their mortgage payments as part of an administration foreclosure prevention program was low. Data released today showed how low -- just 31,382 of 759,058 mortgage modifications under the program have been made permanent as of the end of November.

The data also show Southern California has accounted for nearly 11% of the total modifications. The Los Angeles/Orange County region accounted for 5.9% of the modifications, behind only the New York City area's 6%. And the Inland Empire was fifth on the list of most active metropolitan areas, with 4.8%.

Treasury reported an increase in active trial and permanent modifications through the Home Affordable Modification Program to 728,408 as of Nov. 30, compared with 650,994 at the end of October. The program has shown steady growth since the summer, when administration officials pressed banks and other mortgage servicers to do more.

But most of that growth has been in three-month trial modifications and many homeowners have complained of bureaucratic runarounds and lost paperwork by their mortgage servicers.

“As this report illustrates, struggling homeowners across the country continue to receive immediate relief in the form of reduced monthly payments and a second chance to stay in their homes,” said Phyllis Caldwell, head of Treasury’s Homeownership Preservation Office.  “Our focus now is on working with servicers, borrowers and organizations to get as many of those eligible homeowners as possible into permanent modifications.”

Last week, Treasury officials unveiled new measures to push mortgage servicers to make more of those modifications permanent by the end of the year, including threatening fines. The Obama administration wants to modify up to 4 million mortgages over three years, but has had trouble getting mortgage servicers to convert the temporarily reduced payments to permanent ones.

Bank of America led mortgage servicers with 158,562 trial modifications, but only 98 of those have been made permanent. And another major servicer, CitiMortgage Inc., has converted just 271 of its 103,478 trial modifications into permanent ones. GMAC Mortgage Inc. had the most permanent modifications, 7,111 out of a total of 28,275.

-- Jim Puzzanghera