The US government has faced criticism for not acting swiftly enough to aid those affected after housing prices slumped and the US economy began sliding.
 
Mortgage lenders have also been accused of moving too quickly to foreclose on people's homes.
 
'Valuable' response
 
The plan is to be implemented by six mortgage lenders who claim to service about 50 per cent of US mortgages - the Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Countrywide Financial, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo.
 
Paulson said the forthcoming US stimulus
package would boost the economy [AFP]
It follows a mortgage-sector initiative launched four months ago called Hope Now to aid struggling homeowners.
 
"Project Lifeline is a valuable response, literally a lifeline, for people on the brink of the final steps in foreclosure,'' said Alphonso Jackson, the US housing and urban development secretary, at a joint news conference with Henry Paulson, the US treasury secretary.
 
Homeowners who are already in active bankruptcy or face a foreclosure sale in less than 30 days will not qualify for a pause, nor will vacant homes and investment properties.
 
Economy 'resilient'
 
Paulson said that he believed the US economy would continue to grow and remained "fundamentally diverse and resilient", despite widespread fears of a US recession.
 
He also said George Bush, the US president, was due on Wednesday to sign into law a $150bn economic stimulus deal that will provide tax rebates to individuals and tax incentives to businesses.
 
Approved by both US congress and the house of representatives, the package will provide "a temporary, meaningful boost to our economy as we weather the housing correction," he said.