Two big lenders stepped up Wednesday with plans to help some strapped mortgage borrowers, while a Capitol Hill summit on rising foreclosures put pressure on other industry players to work with troubled homeowners, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Freddie Mac, a government-chartered company that buys mortgages from lenders, said that it wanted to encourage lenders to make "consumer-friendly" sub-prime loans and that it agreed to buy $20 billion of such new adjustable- or fixed-rate mortgages.

Separately, Washington Mutual Inc., a major sub-prime lender, committed as much as $2 billion to refinance customers' sub-prime loans at what the bank said would be discounted interest rates.

Sub-prime loans typically are made to people with poor credit histories. Defaults on these mortgages have soared in recent months as more borrowers have found they were in over their heads. Falling housing prices have left many of them unable to sell their homes for more than their loan amounts and unable to refinance.

Although housing industry experts said the programs announced Wednesday were small compared with the number of homeowners nationwide who might face foreclosure because of loans they couldn't afford, the plans raised hopes that other lenders would come forward with similar programs.

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