WASHINGTON — There's a reason the NCUA's HARP initiative looks an awful lot like the member mortgage relief initiative the CU Housing Roundtable presented to Chairman Michael Fryzel on Oct. 21.Roundtable representative and Boeing Employees Credit Union President/CEO Gary Oakland explained why: HARP is at least partially based on the group's initiative."I guess we really came up with something," Oakland said of the similarities between the CU Housing Roundtable's initiative and details released thus far about HARP.The roundtable's proposal asked that $1 billion be made available from the central liquidity facility to natural person credit unions through the corporate system. Funds can be used to modify, pay off or bring current, existing first or second real estate loans on owner-occupied properties.Members must be in good standing and be able to demonstrate economic distress. The proposal listed the following examples of acceptable distress: "loss of job or income, significant financial impact due to natural disaster, disability, serious household illness, or death of spouse; or, underlying first mortgage is a subprime, option ARM, or negative amortization mortgage with significant adjustment in payment."As for the nuts and bolts of the program, if HARP follows the roundtable's proposal, it offers three options for credit unions.Existing loan modification would modify payments, for a period of three years, to reflect a nonnegative amortization reduction in the rate based on the cost of the advance used to fund the modification.Another option would allow members to combine a first mortgage with a second mortgage held by the credit unions and create a new loan with terms similar to the modified existing loan described above. The new loan should not exceed 100% of current appraised value, but in the event it does, a specific loan-loss reserve for the difference must be created.The third option would be to retain the existing loan but use program funds to bring it current.Oakland said he hasn't seen the details of the NCUA's plan yet, but based on discussions he's had with the agency and his own hunches, he thinks the $8.5 billion BECU will probably participate. However, he stressed that although he's e-mailed NCUA Chairman Fryzel, congratulating him on the move, he hasn't yet reviewed the program's details.California/Nevada Credit Union League President/CEO Bill Cheney applauded the announcement, saying, "this proposal has the potential to provide new resources that would allow credit unions to quickly step up their efforts in helping to resolve financial challenges for thousands of consumers. Nowhere is that assistance more crucial than in California and Nevada, states among those hardest hit by the mortgage lending crisis."–[email protected]

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