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The government agency that oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took another step Tuesday to ensure that borrowers who lose jobs because of the coronavirus crisis won’t suffer lasting financial scars.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) says borrowers who are in forbearance, or have recently exited forbearance, will remain eligible to refinance, or to get a loan to buy a home. The latest move applies to borrowers who are in forbearance but are “current” on their loans, meaning they’ve continued making payments.
That means that borrowers who applied for forbearance as a safety net but continued paying their loans would suffer no loss of creditworthiness. For borrowers who missed payments in forbearance, they will be eligible to refinance or buy a new home three months after their forbearance ends and they have made three consecutive payments, the FHFA says.
“Homeowners who are in COVID-19 forbearance but continue to make their mortgage payment will not be penalized,” FHFA Director Mark Calabria said in a statement. “Today’s action allows homeowners to access record-low mortgage rates and keeps the mortgage market functioning as efficiently as possible.”
Forbearance plans allow borrowers to miss mortgage payments for up to a year. The mortgage relief is part of the federal government’s massive response to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. The initiative seeks to avoid a repeat of the flood of foreclosures that shook the U.S. housing market during the Great Recession.
More than 4.1 million mortgages are currently in forbearance, representing 8.1 percent of all U.S. home loans, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.