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House signs off on sweeping housing bill

Bush administration opposes FHA refi plan

House lawmakers Thursday approved a sweeping housing bill that includes a controversial plan to expand FHA loan guarantee programs to help as many as 2 million troubled borrowers refinance into more affordable loans. But the 266-154 vote to approve the package of bills, dubbed the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act, fell short of the margin that would be needed to override President Bush's threat to veto the bill. The Bush administration opposes the expansion of Federal Housing Administration loan guarantees put forward in March by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., as a "bailout" of lenders and speculators. Frank has maintained that the program would not constitute a bailout because it would mostly be financed by insurance premiums borrowers pay to the FHA, and only owner-occupied homes would be eligible for government-backed refinance loans. In addition, lenders would have to accept a maximum 85 percent of a property's current appraised value as p...