Freddie Mac took aim at the depressed Northeast housing market when it kicked off the third phase of its Massachusetts-based Middle-Class American Dream program, a project that has already housed more than 2,000 families in eight of the state's metropolitan areas.

The program, which has been in effect since February 1992, makes it easier for families to afford homes by reducing down-payment requirements and relaxing loan criteria. The plan allows families to forgo the standard down payment of 20% of the home's purchase price in favor of a 5% down payment. Families also need less total income to qualify for a mortgage and may count 33% of their income, rather than the standard 28%.

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