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Obama administration housing scorecard shows continued weakness

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The U.S. housing market remains in a fragile state after experiencing several months of home price declines, the Obama administration said Thursday. In April, the government-run Home Affordable Modification Program modified 29,000 distressed mortgages, according to the May 2011 Housing Scorecard released by the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The scorecard measures the progress of federal foreclosure prevention programs. Another 29,000 borrowers obtained permanent payment reductions, with the median reduction of about 37%. Government programs modified 4.8 million loans in the past two years. While these statistics show a market eager for recovery, the housing space continues to grapple with uncertainties tied to soft home sales, falling housing prices and the looming shadow inventory of distressed properties that awaits resolution of internal processing issues at servicing firms, according to the report. "The housing data in this month's scorecard offer continued mixed signals and some signs of weakness in the market — despite growing evidence of progress in the broader economy,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic. The scorecard highlighted housing trends impacting the Phoenix market, one of the areas hit hardest by the housing meltdown. The administration says 100,000 Phoenix families have avoided foreclosure through government programs. However, two years after the recession's end, Phoenix home sales remain soft. "Existing home sales rose from 2008 to 2009, though the boost was due in part to sales of distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — which currently represent 56% of all existing homes sales in the metropolitan statistical area, compared with 35% nationally," according to the government report. In the first quarter, existing home sales in Phoenix increased 6% year-over-year, while new home sales fell 24%. Earlier this week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac servicers provided 86,201 modifications in the first quarter, down 28% from the previous quarter. Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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