FALLS CHURCH, Va., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama told an audience near Washington Wednesday he's sending a package to Congress that would help those struggling with mortgages.
"This housing crisis struck right at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America: our homes," Obama told a packed audience at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church, Va.
"I am sending Congress a plan that will give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing at historically low rates," the president said. "No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. And a small fee on the largest financial institutions will make sure that it doesn't add to the deficit."
Obama said in prepared remarks, "Millions of families who did the right and responsible thing -- who shopped for a home, secured a mortgage, and made their payments each month -- were hurt badly by the irresponsible actions of others. By lenders who sold loans to people who couldn't afford the mortgages; buyers who knew they couldn't afford them; and banks that packaged the mortgages up and traded them to reap phantom profits.
"It was wrong. It triggered the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. And it has been the single biggest drag on our recovery from a terrible recession."
The president said he's already set up a special task force to investigate "the kind of activity banks took when they packaged and sold risky mortgages; it's ramping up its work."
Obama said he's proposing a Homeowners Bill of Rights.
"No more hidden fees or conflicts of interest," he said. "No more getting the runaround when you call about your loan. No more sneaking fine print under the noses of young families who don't know better. New safeguards against inappropriate foreclosures. New options to avoid foreclosure if you've fallen on hardship or a run of bad luck. And a new, simple, clear form for new buyers."