WASHINGTON (AP) - The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage held steady this week, staying slightly above the lowest level on record. Low mortgage rates have aided a modest housing recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year loan was unchanged at 3.55 percent. In July, the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.85 percent, down from 2.86 percent last week. That's above the record low of 2.80 percent.

Cheap mortgages have lifted home sales this year. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are well above last year's levels. Home prices have increased consistently, largely because the supply of homes has shrunk while sales have risen.