For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 6, 2007
Fact Sheet: Helping American Families Keep Their Homes
In Focus: Homeownership
President Bush Announces Private-Sector Plan To Help Struggling Homeowners, Calls On Congress To Join Administration In Acting
Today, President Bush outlined steps the Administration is taking to help American homeowners and called on Congress to join him in delivering relief to homeowners in need. In August, President Bush announced measures to help many struggling homeowners, including directing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson to work with lenders, loan servicers, mortgage counselors, and investors on an initiative to help struggling homeowners. Secretaries Paulson and Jackson responded by assembling a private-sector group called the HOPE NOW Alliance. HOPE NOW is an example of government bringing together members of the private sector to voluntarily address a national challenge – without taxpayer subsidies or government mandates. Today, the President announced that these efforts have yielded a promising new source of relief for American homeowners.
1. The President and his Administration have launched a new initiative at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) called FHASecure. FHASecure expands the FHA's ability to offer refinancing by giving it the flexibility to work with homeowners who have good credit histories but cannot afford their current payments. In just three months, the FHA has received over 120,000 refinancing applications and has already helped more than 35,000 people refinance. By the end of 2008, the FHA expects this program to help more than 300,000 families.
2. Secretaries Paulson and Jackson have assembled the private-sector HOPE NOW alliance. This morning, representatives of HOPE NOW briefed the President on the plan they have developed. In addition:
3. The Federal government is taking several regulatory actions to make the mortgage industry more transparent, reliable, and fair. Later this month, the Federal Reserve intends to announce stronger lending standards that will help protect borrowers. In addition, HUD and the Federal banking regulators are each taking steps to improve disclosure requirements so that homeowners can be confident they are receiving complete, accurate, and understandable information about their mortgages.
If Members Of Congress Are Serious About Responding To The Challenges In The Housing Market, They Can Start With Several Steps Of Their Own
1. Congress needs to pass legislation to modernize the FHA. In April 2006, President Bush first sent Congress an FHA modernization bill that 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. The House passed the bill with more than 400 votes last year. This year, the House passed it again, yet the Senate has not acted.
2. Congress needs to temporarily reform the tax code to help homeowners refinance during this time of housing market stress. Under current law, if the value of your house declines and your bank forgives a portion of your mortgage, the tax code treats the amount forgiven as taxable income. The House recently passed this tax relief with bipartisan support, and the Senate should pass relief as soon as possible.
3. Congress needs to pass funding to support mortgage counseling. Non-profit groups like NeighborWorks provide an essential service by helping homeowners find affordable mortgage solutions and prevent foreclosures. The President's FY 2008 Budget requests $120 million for NeighborWorks and another $50 million for HUD's mortgage counseling program. Congress has had these requests since early February, and it needs to stop delaying and get this funding to the President's desk.
4. Congress needs to pass legislation to reform Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. GSEs provide liquidity to the mortgage market that benefits millions of homeowners, and it is vital that they operate safely and soundly. The President has called on Congress to pass legislation that strengthens independent regulation of the GSEs and ensures they focus on their important housing mission. The GSE reform bill passed by the House earlier this year is a good start, and the Senate needs to pass legislation soon.
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