Mortgage relief is reaching few who need it

Harold and Monica McKenzie were thrilled when they heard about a legal settlement requiring their mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial, to make its loans more affordable for hundreds of thousands of customers.

They thought the settlement might help them keep their Kannapolis house, where they live with their two daughters and pet Chihuahua. The couple had stopped making their $1,300 monthly mortgage payment in the spring, six months after Monica lost her machine operator job.

But the McKenzies don't qualify for the loan workouts announced in October by Countrywide's owner, Charlotte's Bank of America. That's because they have a mortgage with a fixed interest rate of 6.25 percent, insured by the Federal Housing Administration. The settlement is only for certain nontraditional loans: subprime and option adjustable-rate mortgages.

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