The temporary loan limits contained in the recently passed economic stimulus bill should increase FHA mortgage endorsements by 154,000 loans this year, according to HUD estimates. John Garvin, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told homebuilders at their annual convention that 85,000 will be purchase loans and 69,000 will be refinancings. The Federal Housing Administration expects to begin processing these higher-balance loans 30 days after President Bush signs the bill. He noted that HUD is calculating the loan limits for metropolitan statistical areas, which should be completed within 30 days. Once HUD publishes the MSAs and issues its mortgage letter, "FHA systems will be ready," Mr. Garvin said. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives said they are working to be ready in 30 days as well. But a lot will depend on HUD's getting the MSA list out and getting its models and controls in place to satisfy the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. National Association of Home Builders officials pressed OFHEO Deputy Director Edward DeMarco not to put hurdles in the GSEs' way. He stressed that OFHEO is working cooperatively with Fannie and Freddie. "We understand the importance of getting this moving," Mr. DeMarco said.

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