In the first full quarter of the government's conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored enterprises modified nearly 24,000 loans, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said late Wednesday.

The fourth quarter numbers are 76% higher than the modifications completed during the third quarter, the FHFA said. The agency, which seized Fannie and Freddie in September, said the figures prove the conservatorship is helping average borrowers.

"The increase shows that the post-conservatorship efforts of the enterprises are starting to work," the FHFA said in a foreclosure prevention report.

In a press release, FHFA Director James Lockhart said he expects the modification numbers to continue to grow. Modifications include changes to interest rates, the term and maturity of a loan, the amortization term or the amortized balance.

The FHFA's report also found that charge-offs that were taken in the place of foreclosures increased 35.1% during the fourth quarter, to 273 loans.

The agency also heralded a foreclosure suspension policy Fannie and Freddie declared between Nov. 26 and Jan. 31. The FHFA said that thanks to the policy, foreclosure was completed on 5.8% of foreclosure starts during the fourth quarter. That rate would have been 26.5% without the suspension.

Though these efforts are gaining traction, they are still a slice of the overall business at Fannie and Freddie. The FHFA said 30.7 million first-lien residential mortgages, with a balance of $4.6 trillion, have been serviced for Fannie and Freddie.

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