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Federal lawmakers consider expanding mortgage refi program

Commentators who watch the housing market say that the number of homes that are underwater on the mortgage has fallen in the past year, according to Reuters. An underwater mortgage is one in which the homeowner owes more than the house is worth on the open housing market. The number of underwater mortgages nationwide has fallen from more than 12 million recorded last year to around 10.8 million homes today, according to CoreLogic.

Lawmakers reportedly are considering expanding a federal mortgage refinancing program to mortgages that are not backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Earlier this month, this blog reported that Fannie and Freddie own roughly half of all of the nation's single family home mortgages.

Now lawmakers in the nation's capitol are debating whether or not to expand the federal mortgage refinance program to extend beyond only those owned by Fannie and Freddie. Lawmakers reportedly are also considering including underwater mortgages in the federal refinancing program.

The federal government has allowed homeowners who are current on their government backed mortgage to seek lower interest rates in what is called a "Harp" refinance. But the program has only been available for government backed mortgages-those owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.

A professor form Columbia Business School told American Public Media's Marketplace program that the proposed expansion of the HARP program "is really a way of bringing the recovery to parts of the country that haven't seen a recovery." Some areas of Ohio have been among the hardest hit in the housing market, he says.

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