PHOENIX, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- President Obama pushed housing policy during a Phoenix visit Thursday and met briefly with a "hero," former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The presidential motorcade also drove by the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Hospital, ground zero for the VA scandal, but did not stop.
In an appearance at Central High School, the president said he would cut premiums for insurance on Federal Housing Administration mortgages. The move is expected to save families an average of $900 a year.
The president also told the audience at the school about his 4-minute meeting with Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. Giffords left the House after she was shot in the head during a mass shooting at a public appearance in Phoenix.
"She is a hero, and she is a great Arizonan," Obama said, touting her advocacy for gun control.
On his way to Central High, Obama made an unscheduled stop at a 32-home project in South Phoenix. Chicanos por la Causa, the non-profit organization sponsoring the subdivision, has received $2 million in federal aid for it.
"It's a program that's worked well and an example of some of the steps we've taken to strengthen the housing market," Obama said.
At the school, Obama joked about his own unpopularity in some quarters. He said that Scott Kelly, Mark's brother, is about to take off for a year in space.
"I know there's some folks in Washington that wish I'd be in space for a year. But I'm still around," he said.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed to prove the president's words.
"He won't be far from the Phoenix VA facility, the epicenter of the VA scandal, where dozens of veterans died while waiting for basic care," Boehner said. "We call on the president to offer a long-term vision for reforming the systemic problems at the VA. We've yet to see it."