Business

Freddie Mac chief backs expanded loan aid

Refinancing program will help 1m families, Haldeman tells executives

A revamped federal loan refinancing plan will help about 1 million families across the country avoid foreclosure, the head of mortgage giant Freddie Mac told an audience of area business leaders yesterday.

Charles E. “Ed’’ Haldeman Jr., chief executive of the taxpayer-backed mortgage company, said the Obama administration’s expansion of the Home Affordable Refinance Program will improve on a two-year-old effort that has not benefited as many families as the government originally projected.

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Haldeman said about 894,000 homeowners have so far been able to lower their mortgage payments through the program, but that number should more than double over the next year as new rules make it easier to qualify for assistance. It is one of many efforts being made by federal officials to stem the country’s foreclosure crisis, he said.

“We’ve got to try to solve it in many different directions,’’ he said at the Boston Harbor Hotel, where he was the keynote speaker at Boston College’s Chief Executives’ Club of Boston luncheon.

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While guests dined on salmon, steak, and seafood salad, about 30 members of the Jamaica Plain housing advocacy group City Life/Vida Urbana rallied outside, urging Haldeman to do more to help homeowners save their homes.

As the demonstrators marched around the building’s perimeter, they were visible to Haldeman and the audience through the hotel’s large glass windows - until the curtains were drawn, sparking murmurs and muffled laughter in the hall.

“We do have some protesters. It is part of the job,’’ Haldeman said in acknowledging the commotion. “Somebody just said, ‘They are not really mad just at you.’ There is a long list of people I think they are mad with. I understand their concerns.’’

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Haldeman, 63, did not mention any plans to retire during the event. But the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Freddie Mac, issued a statement yesterday saying he has informed the Freddie Mac board that he plans step down within the next year.

The former chief executive of Boston’s Putnam Investments agreed to take on the job of running Freddie Mac two years ago after it was seized by US regulators.

Freddie Mac, along with its sister company Fannie Mae, were created by Congress in the 1970s to help provide financing to the mortgage markets.

Together, they own or guarantee about half the nation’s home loans.

Both became mired in financial trouble after the mortgage market collapsed and had to be rescued by the government using taxpayer money.

Haldeman said he has been working to improve the agency’s customer service and efficiency efforts in hopes of one day competing in private capital markets.

The Obama administration is currently considering ways to phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Haldeman said he didn’t know when a decision would be made, but that he assumed it would come after the presidential election.

“It doesn’t seem like we are in an environment where many decisions are being made in D.C.,’’ he said.

Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at jmckim@globe.com.
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