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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 19:26 GMT
US banks join mortgage help plan
A glut of unsold homes is depressing US house prices
US homeowners will get extra time to renegotiate mortgage payments
Six major US banks are taking part in an initiative to help homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages.

Bank of America, Citigroup, Countrywide Financial, JP Morgan Chase, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo are those taking part in "Project Lifeline".

Backed by the US Treasury Department and Housing Department, people failing to pay their mortgages will have the foreclosure process halted for 30 days.

It is hoped that more affordable payments can then be negotiated.

'Way out'

Project Lifeline extends the current assistance available to holders of sub-prime mortgages to those with all forms of home loans.

Project Lifeline is a valuable response, literally a lifeline, for people on the brink of the final steps in foreclosure
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson

It will be available to those homeowners whose mortgage payments are 90 days or more late.

The six banks taking part service almost 50% of the mortgages in the US.

"Project Lifeline is a valuable response, literally a lifeline, for people on the brink of the final steps in foreclosure," said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

He added that the aim was to provide a temporary pause in the foreclosure process "long enough to find a way out" by allowing homeowners and lenders to negotiate more affordable mortgage payments.

Yet Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson cautioned that Project Lifeline would not be a "silver bullet".

He said it was not designed to bail out real estate speculators, "or those who committed fraud during the mortgage process".

Bank of America president of consumer real estate, Floyd Robinson, said each case would be looked at individually.

"We will look at each individual circumstance, homeowner to homeowner, and certainly be willing to do that if necessary," he said.

The current sub-prime assistance plan is called "Hope Now".

The banks say this has helped 545,000 sub-prime borrowers in the last six months of 2007.

One family struggle to keep up with payments

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