A settlement on foreclosure fraud and a positive outlook for housing in 2012 are in the news this week.

State and federal officials finally reached a landmark $26 billion settlement on Thursday with five of the nation’s largest banks for fraudulent lending practices. The lengthy negotiations came to a close after the attorneys general of California and New York joined more than 40 other states on the proposed settlement.

With news of continued low mortgage rates and a positive housing outlook for 2012, the settlement came on top of an already-good news week for home owners.

The New York Times: States Negotiate $26 Billion Agreement for Homeowners

After months of painstaking talks, government authorities and five of the nation’s biggest banks have agreed to a $26 billion settlement that could provide relief to nearly 2 million current and former American home owners. It’s part of a broad national settlement aimed at halting the housing market’s downward slide and holding the banks accountable for foreclosure abuses.

Bloomberg: Banks Paying Homeowners to Avoid Foreclosures

Banks, accelerating efforts to move troubled mortgages off their books, are offering as much as $35,000 or more in cash to delinquent home owners to sell their properties for less than they owe.

Wall Street Journal (Developments): Fannie Mae: Outlook for Home Prices Rises Again

The consumer outlook for U.S. home prices improved again in January, extending a recent upward trend in housing market sentiment, according to mortgage market firm Fannie Mae. Views on the direction of the U.S. economy also continued to improve.

Property Casualty 360: Multiple Industries Join Together to Urge Long-Term NFIP Extension

The insurance and other industries affected by floods are making a big push to get the Senate to act on legislation reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program.

HouseLogic: Home Owners Shouldn’t be Washington’s Personal ATM

Washington’s inability to put aside partisan politics and solve long-term problems is placing home owners in harm’s way again. Searching for a means to extend the payroll tax cut that expires at the end of the month, Congress is considering charging home buyers and owners higher Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan fees, known as guarantee fees.