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November 16. 2012 9:40PM

FHA tries to stave off bailout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Housing Administration, facing a $16.3 billion deficit, will increase mortgage fees next year and take other steps in an effort to avoid a taxpayer bailout, the Obama administration said on Friday.

The agency, a primary source of funding for first-time home buyers and those with modest incomes, said it would raise the premiums it charges on loans it guarantees by 10 basis points, adding, on average, about $13 per month to a borrower's cost.

A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.

Housing officials would not say whether the steps would be enough to keep the agency from turning to the Treasury Department for a cash infusion. "I'm not going to place bets," FHA Acting Commissioner Carol Galante told reporters.

An independent audit delivered to Congress on Friday showed the FHA had depleted the capital it would need to cover expected losses on the $1.1 trillion in mortgages it backs. It said the losses would leave the agency $16.3 billion in the red.

The FHA's troubles stem from rising defaults on mortgages it guaranteed from 2007-2009 as the housing bubble was deflating. As private capital dried up during the bust, the FHA's role grew. It now insures about 1.2 million loans, or about 15 percent of all U.S. home loans, up from 5 percent in 2006.

Galante emphasized that the White House's annual budget proposal in February would be instrumental in determining whether the agency would need taxpayer funds by the time its fiscal year expires on Sept. 30.

Any final determination would not be made until September.

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Saving seed: At harvest time, you'll have more than memories of a great garden


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Susan Dromey Heeter's Down to Earth: A harvest of lessons for kids – and, maybe, candidates


Relishing the last of the garden's bounty

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), shown here growing on a dying sugar maple at Distant Hill Gardens. It is one of the easiest edible mushrooms to identify, and often grows in large numbers, making collection easy.

Foraging for mushrooms has a growing following


For most people, foraging means sifting through sketchy leftovers and eating around the fuzzy parts of fruit in search of a midnight snack while standing in the stark light of the fridge. But for a...

Lilac photo winners announced


The Governor's Lilac & Wildflower Commission has announced the winners of the 19th annual Lilac Photo Contest.

A bench in memory of Katie Bentley.

Hotel and lilacs proposed for Hackett Hill site


John Bentley plans to plant more than 300 types of lilacs as part of a proposed botanical garden/festival venue/commercial development on Hackett Hill Road in Hooksett, creating a monument to the...