Speaking from Nevada, the state hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, President Obama announced Monday night an initiative to help underwater homeowners reduce their mortgage payments. It would allow them to refinance at lower rates even if their home values have fallen and also would reduce or eliminate refinancing fees.
“I’m here to say that we can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will,” Obama told a crowd gathered outside the house of Jose and Lissette Bonilla in Las Vegas, adding that the housing bubble is the single greatest cause for the recession and financial crisis.
The program would apply only to loans backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae and removes loan limits for borrowers who owe more than 125 percent of their home’s value. In addition it waives appraisal requirements. Administration officials estimate it could help up to one million homeowners save thousands of dollars a year in mortgage payments.
“The changes announced today will provide additional relief for middle-class Americans and an important boost for our economy. But we must not stop here. Economists warn that the housing crisis is ‘ground zero’ for the economy and jobs, and this is only one modest step towards addressing it,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), who has been pushing the Federal Housing Finance Agency to tackle the problem more aggressively.
Obama, whose jobs package has been repeatedly blocked by Capitol Hill lawmakers, plans to announce a series of initiatives over the next few weeks that can be enacted through executive order that don’t require congressional approval.
“These steps aren’t a substitute for the bold action we need to create jobs and grow the economy, but they’ll make a difference. I’ve told my administration to keep looking every day for actions we can take without waiting for Congress — steps that can save consumers money, make government more efficient and responsive and help heal the economy,” Obama said.
(Photo: Ethan Miller/GettyImages)