Update on HR 3221 – New Housing Stimulus Package

Even with Presidential veto threats looming, the housing stimulus package has taken another necessary step to being implemented – it has taken on another round of changes, passed the Senate, and is on its merry way to the White House again.

The package is much larger than our aforementioned Foreclosure Prevention Act – it goes by a few different aliases, all hoping to do the same thing – give the US economy the kick in the pants it needs. According to GovTrack.us, the stimulus package includes the following ideas/titles:

  1. Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008
  2. Building American Homeownership Act of 2008
  3. FHA Manufactured Housing Loan Modernization Act of 2008
  4. FHA Modernization Act of 2008
  5. Mortgage Disclosure Improvement Act of 2008
  6. REIT Investment Diversification & Empowerment Act of 2008

While diversifying and disclosing is all well and nice, what does the housing stimulus package mean for you? More stimulus checks? Not quite. Tax breaks and tax rebates? Maybe.

So what the heck do 631 pages of super fun bill writing include? We did the research so you don’t have to! Here are the highlights:

  • We all know conventional and FHA loan limits have been raised through 2008. Currently set to expire on New Year’s Eve (no toast for that), the housing stimulus package includes plans to keep them higher than they were in years past – it’s likely to be somewhere around the $700,000 mark. This means lower rates on bigger loans.
  • Tax credits for “first-time home buyers” – it’s in quotes for a reason. This group is defined to include actual first-time home buyers and buyers who have not owned a home for at least three years. The tax credit for those buyers can be up to $7,500.
  • A property tax reduction for American homeowners—$500 for single filers and $1,000 for joint filers—for the 25+ million homeowners who pay property taxes, but choose not to itemize their deductions.
  • What about homeowners already in distress? They’re covered, too – the FHA is working on programs, including FHA Secure, to assist homeowners currently behind on their mortgage and for those who currently owe more than their home is worth. It could help up to 400,000 homeowners potentially facing foreclosure.
  • And for the lenders? Better disclosure with regards to the potential changes in mortgage payments during the loan’s lifetime. The information will need to be provided at least seven days before closing.

Those are really just the high points of the housing stimulus package. While controversial, Congress has taken ample time to discuss, re-write and re-discuss the bill. It’s coming to the point of fruition – will President Bush sign or not? If he doesn’t, the fact remains that Congress could be so united in the housing stimulus package that they will override him. And in this election year, it’s likely that the Bush Administration may pick up their pens and sign.

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