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Taxpayer-Owned Fannie Mae Attacks Struggling Homeowners

The Huffington Post - Taxpayer-owned mortgage giant Fannie Mae is targeting families by going after struggling homeowners who strategically default on their mortgage, the firm announced Wednesday.

A default is considered strategic when homeowners have the capacity to pay, yet choose to walk away from their mortgage. The trigger, researchers say, is negative equity: When the value of a home is less than what the lender is owed on it, borrowers are more likely to strategically default.

About 11.3 million homeowners with a mortgage, or 24 percent, owe more on their mortgage than the home is worth, according to real estate research firm CoreLogic. Another 2.3 million have less than 5 percent equity in their homes. All told, about 29 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage are either underwater or very close to it. The firm estimates that the typical underwater homeowner won't return to positive equity until late 2015 or early 2016.

And Fannie Mae, an arm of the federal government and a big part of the Obama administration's housing policy, wants to make sure that if struggling families walk away, they suffer for it.

Homeowners who strategically default or did not work "in good faith" to avert foreclosure through other means will be ineligible for new Fannie Mae-backed mortgages for seven years. Read more.

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