Obama on housing in State of the Union

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for a significant new law to help struggling homeowners reduce their debt load.

He asked for new legislation that would give all homeowners who are current on their mortgages — not just those whose loans are backed by Fannie and Freddie — the opportunity to refinance at record low mortgage rates. (“No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks.”)

Right now, because home values have plummeted and so many people have lost income, refinancing may be impossible. A new law would remove the roadblock … at least for borrowers who are current.

Of course, there are issues and questions. Would these refinanced loans be backed up by Fannie/Freddie/FHA? Is that putting taxpayers at risk? (Answer: Probably not, because it’s only for people who are making payments, so we’re not talking about overly risky loans.)

But just in case, the Obama Administration wants to impose a fee on the financial institutions that got us into this mess — money that would be used to alleviate any losses.

And speaking of those companies, the President also wants to create a task force to prevent future mortgage fraud by lenders. (“Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender. That’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing.”)

Obviously, these two plans — easier refinancing, fraud prevention — aren’t expected to solve the housing issue alone. There is no magic bullet or single, simple policy that will. But NAR, among other organizations, recognized them as important steps.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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