Government unveils sweeping plan to provide mortgage help

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government and the mortgage industry are launching the most sweeping effort yet to help troubled homeowners.

They aim to speed up the process of renegotiating hundreds of thousands of delinquent loans held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September. Today, the agency's director described the new plan as a way to keep thousands of families from entering "a downward spiral" and boost the overall housing market as well.

To qualify, borrowers would have to be at least three months behind on home loans, and would need to owe 90 percent or more than the home is currently worth. Investors who do not occupy their homes would be excluded, as would borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy.

The program goes into effect Dec. 15.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)