Obama asks Congress to give Americans the chance to refinance

Aug. 10, 2013 at 6:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- President Obama said Saturday it's time to create a better bargain for "responsible, middle-class homeowners" now that the U.S. housing market is rebounding.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama announced steps he will take to bolster the housing market and called on Congress to act to help make homeownership a source of middle-class security for generations to come.

"I've been laying out my ideas for how we can build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America. A good job. A good education. Affordable health care when you get sick. A secure retirement even if you're not rich. And the chance to own your own home," the president said.

"This week, I went to Arizona and California, two of the states hit hardest when the housing bubble burst, triggering the recession. All across the country, millions of responsible Americans were hurt badly by the reckless actions of others. Home values plummeted. Construction workers were laid off. And many families lost their homes.

"Over the past four years, we've worked to help millions of responsible homeowners get back on their feet. And while we're not where we need to be yet, our housing market is beginning to heal. Home prices and sales are rising. Construction is up. Foreclosures are down. Millions of families have come up for air because they're no longer underwater on their mortgages.

"Now we have to build on this progress. Congress should give every American the chance to refinance at today's low rates. We should help more qualified families get a mortgage and buy their first home. We should get construction workers back on the job rebuilding communities hit hardest by the crisis. And we should make sure that folks who don't want to buy a home have decent, affordable places to rent.

Obama said now that home prices are rising again, the country needs to avert the "bubble-and-bust mentality" and build a "rock-solid" housing system that rewards responsibility for future generations.

"We need to wind down the companies known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, make sure private capital plays a bigger role in the mortgage market, and end the era of expecting a bailout after your pursuit of profit puts the whole country at risk. We need to preserve access to safe and simple mortgages like the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. We need to keep laying down rules of the road that protect homeowners when they're making the biggest purchase of their lives. And finally, Congress needs to confirm Mel Watt to be our nation's top housing regulator, so that he can protect consumers and help responsible lenders provide credit.

"No program or policy will solve all the problems in a multi-trillion dollar housing market, and it will take time to fully recover. But if we work together, we can make a home a source of pride and middle-class security again. And if Washington is willing to set aside politics and focus on what really matters, we can rebuild an economy where if you work hard, you can get ahead," the president said.

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