The latest figures shifted that equation, with the banks more often giving homeowners principal or interest reductions on their loans or refinancing them into new loans, enabling them to stay in their homes. Those benefits totaled $29.2 billion to 387,420 homeowners since the program began in March 2012, according to Smith's tally of the bank reports.

By comparison, aid in the form of short sales totaled $20.1 billion to about 175,000 borrowers.

One prominent critic, Kevin Stein of the California Reinvestment Coalition, said the assistance still involved too little reduction of first-mortgage balances -- the action, he said, that was "meant to be the heart of the agreement."

In California, Stein said, relief skewed too heavily toward short sales and writing off second liens -- delinquent credit lines and second mortgages that would be worth little or nothing if an underwater home went through foreclosure.

Stein gave Bank of America, which is required to deliver by far the most assistance to borrowers, good marks during the latest quarter, saying its assistance was delivered almost entirely by reducing principal on first mortgages.

Wells Fargo, by contrast, continued to use short sales heavily, Stein said. It dispensed aid about equally through short sales and principal reductions, he said.

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