In a rare weekend meeting, the U.S. Senate passed the housing bill by 72-13 votes. The legislation now awaits the signature of U.S. President George W. Bush, who could sign it into law as early as this week.

The bill would aid over 400,000 mortgage borrowers with the FHA assuming up to $300 billion in refinanced 30-year mortgages. The legislation also includes government relief to government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, giving the Treasury Department the authority to extend an unlimited line of credit to both institutions.

The bill also includes for the creation of a GSE regulator.

"This is the most important piece of housing-related legislation in more than a generation. The provisions in this bill will give lenders, servicers and borrowers another tool to help keep families in their homes," according to Kieran P. Quinn, CMB, chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association in a statement following the passing of the bill through Congress. "The bill will also help stabilize the housing, mortgage and capital markets."

"There is something in the bill for everyone. Leaders in both parties and both chambers deserve a lot of credit for getting this bill done," he added. "We are very excited at the prospect of President Bush signing the bill into law in the coming week."

Although the bill met some opposition from Bush and other Republicans earlier this month, the president announced last week that failing to pass the legislation would be more detrimental to the financial system, urging Congress to send the legislation to his desk as early as possible.

On July 23, the House of Representatives had passed the bill 272-152.

By Erik Kevin Franco and edited by Nancy Girgis