Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are permitted by their charters to let underwater homeowners refinance their loans without getting new mortgage insurance policies, James Lockhart, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said Friday.

The Obama administration's housing plan, unveiled last week, calls for Fannie and Freddie to allow refinancings by 4 million to 5 million such borrowers whose loans the government-sponsored enterprises already own or guarantee.

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