Regulators are trying to make home refinancing easier, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a speech Thursday, outlining his plans for financial reform in 2012.
The government is working with the Federal Housing Administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency to remove "unnecessary barriers" some borrowers are facing when applying for new mortgages or refinancing current home loans.
As many as 11 million Americans are underwater on their mortgages, according to some estimates, but many struggling homeowners haven't been able to take advantage of expanded government refinancing programs such as HARP, which was revamped in December.
President Obama recently unveiled plans to further expand refinancing initiatives, which would apply to Americans with privately held mortgages, as well as those with government-backed loans. That's somewhat at odds with comments Geithner made Thursday, which alluded to plans by the Obama administration to scale back the government's footprint in the housing market by winding down the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Geither said the administration would release more details on their plans to reform the GSEs this spring, tapping into the expertise of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services committees.
"Our plan will wind down the GSEs and bring private capital back into the market, reducing the government's direct role in the housing market and better targeting our support towards first-time homebuyers and low- and moderate-income Americans," Geithner said.
Geithner also addressed his plans for broader financial reform, which would include holding financial institutions such as insurance companies and hedge funds accountable under the same financial regulations as the rest of the industry.