Cash for Clunkers was a bust, Homeowners assistance is D.O.A. Nice job, Obama Administration. Have these guys done anything of substance to help Americans?
But six months into the program, only 6 percent of the 4 million eligible homeowners have gotten help. A lot more say they've been frustrated with the runaround they've been getting from lenders.
Are the new program's growing pains responsible for the slow start, as bankers say, or is pain to their bottom lines really preventing the program from working, as critics say?
The Making Home Affordable Program is supposed to work this way:
In return for billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money, banks would offer loans that would reduce troubled borrowers' monthly mortgage payments to 31 percent of their income. To qualify, a homeowner must have an income and must live in the house, and that house can't be worth more than $730,000.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been so unhappy with the program's pace that he called in lenders for a meeting and demanded they do better.
In a July 9 letter to one servicer, JP Morgan, Geithner and Shawn Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, wrote "there is a general need for servicers to devote substantially more resources to this program for it to fully succeed and achieve the objectives we share."
He insists that the banks want to cooperate.
"It's in the banks' best interest to work with those borrowers to keep those loans on the books and avoid foreclosure," Courson said.
But critics say that the program works against the banks' best interests, as the homeowners who most need the program are the riskiest bets.
"If the borrower is really in trouble, [the lenders] probably don't want to do the modification, because they think there's a good chance the borrower will redefault, and they will do a lot of work and they won't collect money," said Paul Willen, an economist with the Boston Federal Reserve who has studied bank foreclosures and modifications.
"The problem with this is in some deep sense, you can't penalize the banks for acting in self-interest. It's a for-profit business."
Others are critical of the voluntary nature of the program and the Obama administration's hands-off relationship with lenders.
The Treasury Department official charged with overseeing the program insists it's "off to a strong start, with hundreds of thousands of trial modifications already underway."