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Amount of HAMP-eligible borrowers cut in half from a year ago

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The 3.3 million borrowers estimated to be eligible for a Home Affordable Modification Program workout in December 2009 was reduced to 1.4 million by the end of 2010, according to the latest Treasury Department estimates. And not all have made it to a permanent modification. Since HAMP launched in March 2009, it has run into roadblocks. The Obama administration set an early goal of reaching between 3 million and 4 million homeowners, but through December 2010, servicers have started just more than 579,000 permanent modifications. And with the program set to expire at the end of 2012, the Congressional Oversight Panel estimates servicers will end up reaching 800,000 permanent modifications on the high end. Of the initial 3.3 million estimated to be eligible for the program, servicers have offered 1.7 million trial modifications. But they have so far canceled more than 734,000 trials and rejected another 1 million homeowners from entering one. Trials are canceled and homeowners are rejected because of insufficient documentation or because they're deemed ineligible. As of December, there are just more than 152,000 active trial modifications, according to the Treasury. More than 26% of those, or 39,800 loans, have been stuck in the trial stage for more than six months. Bank of America (BAC) holds most of them. In fact, BofA holds 12,700 trials that were initiated at least six months ago. The second most belongs to the combined portfolios of the other Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac independent servicers. They hold roughly 8,300 aged trials. The next highest bank is CitiMortgage, the servicing arm of Citigroup (C). It holds 3,600 aged trials. BofA began work reducing the amount of backlogged trials last fall. Since then, it has cut its amount from 32,500 aged trials in October to less than 20,000 in November and less than 13,000 in December, according to the bank. "This remains an area of focus, and we have discussed our plans for completing decisions on the remaining aged trials with Treasury representatives," a spokesman for BofA told HousingWire. Looking at the individual portfolios of participating servicers, the amount of estimated HAMP-eligible loans at BofA has shrunk from more than 1 million at the end of 2009 to slightly more than 400,000 by December 2010. BofA currently holds 90,200 active permanent HAMP modifications. There has been drastic reductions at other major lenders as well. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has seen its amount of HAMP-eligible loans fall from to roughly 195,000 from 424,000 over the same amount of time. Citi (C) HAMP-eligible loans dropped to 97,000 from 241,000, and Wells Fargo (WFC) saw its number reduce down to 166,000 from 350,000 the year before. Combined, the big-four lenders hold more than 269,000 active permanent HAMP modifications, according to Treasury numbers. The underwhelming figures have spurred concern among COP and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Some Republicans have even introduced a bill that would repeal HAMP, severing all contracts between the Treasury and the participating servicers. The banks seem to be preferring their own programs over HAMP, despite the subsidy from the Treasury. The Hope Now alliance of private lenders modified more than 1.17 million loans through its own programs in 2010 as of November, nearly  triple the 482,000 done through HAMP over the same time period. Critics such as the members of COP and SIGTARP have stopped short of calling for an elimination of HAMP, but have argued Treasury needs to revamp the program to welcome more borrowers into it and away from the proprietary programs SIGTARP said could hold more ominous terms and conditions and less transparency. Treasury recently announced changes to its Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program that go into effect Feb. 1. HAFA was built as a component to HAMP that provided incentives to servicers, homeowners and investors for granting short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure. "HAMP has been carefully designed to protect taxpayer interests while providing affordable and sustainable payment relief to financially distressed homeowners who are struggling through no fault of their own," a Treasury spokesperson said. "We continue to monitor the program to determine how best to reach struggling homeowners." While Treasury officials have not confirmed any new changes being considered, voices are growing for more meaningful retooling to a program under siege. "Treasury’s central foreclosure prevention effort designed to address that goal — the Home Affordable Modification Program— has been beset by problems from the outset and, despite frequent retooling, continues to fall dramatically short of any meaningful standard of success," SIGTARP said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAPrior

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