Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is all about putting Americans back to work, but the proposal in President Obama’s American Jobs Act that excites him most is the one that would allow home owners to refinance their mortgages to take advantage of historically low interest rates. He also was hugely relieved that it doesn’t require congressional action and could be accomplished without the usual bitter and partisan debate. But one week later, he and other House Democrats who met Thursday afternoon with Federal Housing Finance Agency officials to discuss the measure are feeling both frustrated and disappointed by what they view as a lack of urgency.
According to Cummings, the proposal offers enormous benefits to both African-American homeowners and communities where unemployment and foreclosure rates are disproportionately high.
“It is very important that this be done quickly, particularly for neighborhoods of color. A lot of African-Americans were steered into subprime loans, when they should have gotten prime loans, and really got taken to the cleaners,” Cummings said. “If they can speed up the process, it will allow more people to stay in their homes. It also will stabilize their neighborhoods. Property values in Black neighborhoods are being substantially reduced because of higher foreclosure rates — another way that we’re losing.”
In a letter to FHFA’s acting director Edward DeMarco, Cummings and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-California) wrote: "Along with other members who attended today’s meeting, we expressed our profound frustration with the apparent lack of urgency shown by your agency and by agencies within the administration in addressing the foreclosure crisis.” It also requests a meeting with DeMarco to discuss ways to implement the proposal.
The lawmakers had hoped that Thursday’s meeting would be with DeMarco, who reports directly to the president, but instead, Cummings said a press conference later, “they sent us some career employees and they were not able to answer the questions that we were most concerned about.” He also said that he expects to meet with the acting director within the next few weeks.
Cardoza said that the administration has been “AWOL” and “irresponsible” on the mortgage issue, "and the American people are suffering because of the mismanagement."
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)