Zandi said the government effort will likely end up helping only about 500,000 homeowners lower their monthly payments on a permanent basis. That's a small percentage of the number of people who have already lost their homes to foreclosure or distressed sales like short sales – when lenders let homeowners sell for less than they owe on their mortgages.
Zandi predicts another 1.5 million foreclosures or short sales in 2011.
"We still have a lot more foreclosures to come and further home price declines," Zandi said. He said home prices, which have already fallen 30 percent since the peak of the housing boom, would drop by another 5 percent by next spring.
Many borrowers have complained that the government program is a bureaucratic nightmare. They say banks often lose their documents and then claim borrowers did not send back the necessary paperwork.
The banking industry said borrowers weren't sending back their paperwork. They also have accused the Obama administration of initially pressuring them to sign up borrowers without insisting first on proof of their income. When banks later moved to collect the information, many troubled homeowners were disqualified or dropped out.
Obama officials dispute that they pressured banks. They have defended the program, saying lenders are making more significant cuts to borrowers' monthly payments than before the program was launched. And some of the largest mortgage companies in the program have offered alternative programs to those who fell out.
Homeowners who qualify can receive an interest rate as low as 2 percent for five years and a longer repayment period. Those who have successfully navigated the program to reach permanent modifications have seen their monthly payments cut on average by about $500.
Homeowners first receive temporary modifications and those are supposed to become permanent after borrowers make three payments on time and complete all the required paperwork. That includes proof of income and a letter explaining the reason for their troubles. But in practice, the process has taken far longer.
The more than 100 participating mortgage companies get taxpayer incentives to reduce payments. As of mid-June only $490 million had been spent out of a potential $75 billion the government has made available to help stem the wave of foreclosures.
AP Real Estate Writer Alan Zibel in Washington and Alex Veiga in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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