Five banks have committed $125 million to help New England homeowners with good payment histories refinance out of high-cost loans or avoid interest rate resets on adjustable-rate mortgages.
At least 38,000 borrowers in six New England states may be eligible for help under the program, but the initial funding pledged by Citizens Bank, Sovereign Bank, TD Banknorth, Webster Bank and Bank of America would only fund about 500 mortgages.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which organized the Mortgage Relief Fund, is hoping it will be expanded to include more banks and more funding.
“If the demand proves to be greater than the initial $125 million commitment, we will try to go further — especially if the mortgages can be securitized,” participants in the program said in a press release.
Backers said outreach is a key part of the initiative, and the banks have created a Web site, www.MortgageReliefFund.com, providing more information for borrowers and information on contacting the banks.
“It is particularly important to find and locate the borrowers who may be eligible for a better rate and a healthier relationship with their lender,” said Boston Fed president Eric Rosengren in a statement.
Rosengren said participating banks will tap state programs and Federal Housing Administration loan guarantees, which include flexible underwriting and eligibility guidelines. Those programs will help banks offer troubled borrowers lower interest rates, similar to those paid by prime borrowers.
The Boston Fed estimates that 38,000 subprime borrowers in New England may qualify for the program, because they had 10 percent equity in their homes when they took out a loan, had credit scores over 620, and took out fully documented loans on owner-occupied houses.
Those criteria provide a “conservative estimate” of the number of subprime borrowers who might qualify for the program, Rosengren said, including more than 15,000 households in Massachusetts, 10,000 in Connecticut, 3,800 in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, 3,400 in Maine and nearly 1,000 in Vermont.
The program is “not designed for borrowers who are seriously delinquent on their mortgage payments or facing imminent foreclosure,” although those borrowers may be eligible for refinancing under the new FHASecure loan guarantee program.