The Washington Post

Obama to tout success of mortgage refinancing

SEATTLE — President Obama will announce new figures Friday showing a dramatic spike in the number of Americans taking advantage of federal programs designed to help struggling homeowners and stabilize the lagging housing industry, administration officials said Thursday.

The numbers, officials said, demonstrate the success of programs Obama has implemented to let more homeowners refinance their homes at a time of historically low interest rates. And they demonstrate the need, they said, for Congress to take still more action to give even more Americans the same opportunity.

“Economists across all sectors have recognized that this refinancing is one of the most important things we can do to quickly accelerate the housing market and the broader economy,” said Shaun Donovan, Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development.

According to the White House, refinancing applications in three of the hardest-hit states in the housing crisis, Arizona, Nevada and Florida, have ballooned since Obama announced programs to let more homeowners who are underwater on their loans qualify for refinancing with lower, more affordable rates.

The number of refinancing applications has more than doubled in all three states, Donovan said. He cited the Home Affordable Refinance Program, announced in 2009, which is credited with helping more than 1 million homeowners refinance. In addition, he cited a program Obama announced in October 2011 designed to remove barriers to refinancing to homeowners with federally backed mortgages.

Now, it is up to Congress, Donovan said, to expand such programs to homeowners with loans that are not backed by the federal government — and to those who are not underwater on their loans but for whom refinancing remains out of reach because of high fees or other obstacles. The programs would be open only to “responsible” homeowners who have kept up with their payments for at least six months, he said.

In addition to helping struggling homeowners, officials said, these programs help stabilize the housing industry and are a good investment for taxpayers by reducing the risk being carried by federally backed mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Obama will make the announcement during a visit Friday to a couple in Reno, Nev., who took advantage of the federal program allowing them to refinance.

Val and Paul Keller were underwater on their mortgage; they owed $168,000 on a house worth only $100,000, according to White House economic adviser Brian Deese. Because of that, they did not qualify for refinancing. But Val Keller heard Obama promoting the mortgage program last fall in Las Vegas, and she called her lender and learned that she qualified. Since refinancing at a lower interest rate, the Kellers pay $240 less per month — and are plowing that money back into their home to build up their equity.

Reno is an epicenter for the national housing crisis, a region where home prices have fallen more than 50 percent since the market’s peak. In Nevada overall, more than 60 percent of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
We'll have half a million voters in South Carolina. I can shake a lot of hands, but I can't shake that many.
Sen. Marco Rubio, speaking to a group of reporters about his strategy to regain support after a poor performance in the last debate
Fact Checker
Sanders’s claim that Clinton objected to meeting with ‘our enemies’
Sanders said that Clinton was critical of Obama in 2008 for suggesting meeting with Iran. In fact, Clinton and Obama differed over whether to set preconditions, not about meeting with enemies. Once in office, Obama followed the course suggested by Clinton, abandoning an earlier position as unrealistic.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.