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President George W. Bush signs into law H.R. 3648, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, during ceremonies Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper

President Bush Discusses Housing, Economy

"President Bush on Friday said, "During my tour, I have met with skilled professionals who provide free mortgage counseling for struggling homeowners. And the reason why I'm here is because we have got a issue in housing in America. The value of the houses have gone down in some areas, and people's mortgages are resetting. In other words, the interest rates are going up. And that has caused consternation and concern and care. A lot of families are facing the frightening prospect of foreclosures. Foreclosures obviously place a terrible burden on a family, as well as they lead to losses for lenders and investors. And this affects our entire economy."

--President George W. Bush, March 28, 2008

Full Transcript

Fact Sheet: Taking Sensible, Decisive Action To Help Homeowners

Administrative Actions Are Helping American Homeowners

Today, President Bush will visit the Novadebt counseling center in Freehold, New Jersey to meet with housing counselors who are helping struggling homeowners and discuss the housing market. The HOPE NOW Alliance hotline (888-995-HOPE) helps connect struggling homeowners with mortgage counselors who work on possible solutions. Novadebt, a HOPE NOW Alliance member, is one of the counseling centers that homeowners are directed to when they call the HOPE hotline. HOPE NOW has announced that since July more than one million struggling homeowners received a work-out – either a loan modification or a repayment plan that helped them avoid foreclosure.

The Administration is exploring new ways FHASecure can help more qualified homeowners.

The Administration Has Repeatedly Taken Action To Keep Our Economy Growing And Assist Struggling Homeowners

The President and his administration have continually addressed economic uncertainties and troubles in the housing market.

  • April 5, 2006: President Bush first sent Congress an FHA Modernization bill, and nearly two years later, Congress has still not passed it. This bill would increase access to FHA-insured loans by lowering downpayment requirements, allowing the FHA to insure bigger mortgages in high-cost States, and expanding FHA's authority to price insurance fairly, with risk based premiums.

  • September 25, 2006: HUD announced $39.1 million in housing counseling grants that will assist an estimated 850,000 homebuyers in making decisions that will help them to keep their homes. HUD has funded $242 million in housing counseling grants to national, State and local agencies since 2001, reaching more than 1.6 million households last year.

  • June 2007: HUD created a new Fair Lending Division, which centralized the Department's expertise in targeting and investigating lenders that may have violated the Fair Housing Act.

  • August 2007: HUD began supporting foreclosure-prevention clinics nationwide. Nearly 200 events have been attended by approximately 29,000 people.

  • August 31, 2007: The President launched FHASecure, which expands the FHA's ability to offer refinancing to homeowners who have good credit but cannot afford current payments. Since FHASecure was announced, FHA has helped more than 130,000 families stay in their homes by refinancing about $19 billion worth of mortgages. By the year's end, this program is expected to have helped nearly 300,000 homeowners in all.

  • October 4, 2007: HUD announced another $44 million in housing counseling grants that will assist an estimated 700,000 homebuyers in making decisions to help them to keep their homes.

  • October 10, 2007: The President and his administration helped facilitate the formation of the private-sector HOPE NOW Alliance – a group of lenders, investors, and mortgage counselors working to help Americans keep their homes.

  • December 6, 2007: The President announced that HOPE NOW members have developed industry standards to bring systematic help to homeowners facing subprime loan interest rate resets. These standards help homeowners in one of three ways: refinancing into a new mortgage; moving homeowners into an FHASecure-insured loan; or freezing their current interest rates for five years.

  • December 20, 2007: President Bush signed the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, which helps homeowners avoid foreclosure by protecting them from higher taxes when they refinance. This creates a three-year window for homeowners to refinance and pay no Federal taxes on any debt forgiveness.

  • January 18, 2008: The President called for an economic growth package and identified clear principles that would give a booster-shot to the economy and help Americans who may be hurt by an economic slowdown. President Bush recognized the initial signs of slowdown and acted decisively.

  • January 22, 2008: The President created the Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, which brought together business experts, and faith-based and non-profit organizations to develop recommendations to better educate Americans about matters pertaining to their finances and their future.

    • HUD developed and distributed four million copies of a bilingual "Home Economics" brochure that detail five steps Americans should take to become financially literate and own a home they can afford.

  • February 8, 2008: FHA announced expanded efforts to reach at-risk homeowners through letters to 850,000 Americans who face adjustable rate resets and likely qualify for more affordable loans. 280,000 letters were sent the first week of February, and another 570,000 letters will be sent in coming months.
  • February 12, 2008: The Administration joined HOPE NOW members to announce Project Lifeline, which can "pause" the foreclosure process for 30 days so longer-term solutions can be explored. Project Lifeline targets seriously delinquent homeowners who are at greatest risk of losing their homes.

  • February 13, 2008: The President signed a bipartisan economic growth package that puts more than $150 billion back in the hands of families and businesses. This package includes a payment of up to $600 for individuals – $1,200 for married couples filing jointly - and a $300 per child payment for children younger than 17. It also encourages businesses to expand and add workers. Payments will begin the first week of May.

  • February 13, 2008: The President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy convened its first meeting and solicited public comments on solutions to improve financial literacy in the United States.

  • March 14, 2008: HUD proposed creating a new mortgage disclosure form to help homebuyers better understand loans and compare costs by updating and adding transparency to the 30-year-old Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). This reform requires all mortgage terms and settlement charges to be combined and displayed in a standard summary, and is expected to save homebuyers nearly $500 to $700 in closing costs, while reducing the likelihood of consumers taking on loans they cannot afford.

  • March 19, 2008: The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced a policy that enables them to invest approximately $200 billion more in home loans.

  • March 24, 2008: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced it will open more than 300 IRS offices on Super Saturday, March 29. This was done in an effort to assist Americans who are eligible for the economic stimulus payment but who normally are not required to file an income tax return in preparing the simple Form 1040A.

Congress Should Act Now On Measures To Keep Our Economy Growing

Congress should complete work on FHA modernization to help thousands of additional families qualify for prime-rate financing. A modernized FHA would allow for more flexible downpayment requirements and expand FHA's authority to price insurance fairly with risk based premiums.

Congress should pass legislation that helps at-risk homeowners by permitting cities and States to issue tax-exempt bonds for refinancing existing home loans and by increasing existing bond caps. Under current law, tax-exempt bonds are only for first-time homebuyers and cannot be issued for refinancing.

Congress should pass legislation to reform the regulation of Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The President has called on Congress to pass legislation that strengthens the independent regulator of the GSEs and ensures their focus on the housing mission.

Congress should not increase taxes on any American. If Congress allows the President’s tax relief to expire, every income tax payer will face a rate increase.

  • For a single mom with two children and $30,000 in earnings, taxes would go up by 67 percent.

  • An elderly couple with $40,000 in income would see their taxes go up by 156 percent.

  • Twenty-seven million small business owners would see taxes increase by nearly 20 percent – or about $4,000 on average.

Congress should approve the Colombia, Panama, and South Korea free-trade agreements. These trade agreements would level the playing field for American workers, farmers, and ranchers. Exports accounted for 40 percent of our economic growth last year and 12 percent of our GDP.

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