The current housing market remains fragile after the 2008 financial and foreclosure crisis, and home foreclosure rates remain high. In 2012, approximately 8.5 million households with very low incomes faced “worst case housing needs,” meaning that they had no housing assistance and either paid more than half of their income for rent and utilities or lived in severely substandard housing.
However, there are many bright spots. For example, nearly 1.5 million homeowner assistance actions have taken place through the Making Home Affordable Programs, which helps eligible homeowners lower their monthly mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure and assists unemployed homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth. Additionally, as of May 2014, more than 1.3 million homeowners have received a permanent modification through the Home Affordable Modification Program. Through the program, homeowners reduced their first lien mortgage payments by a median of approximately $540 each month saving a total estimated $28.2 billion to date in monthly mortgage payments.
Owning a home is a fundamental American dream, and one that is unfortunately still out of reach for many Americans. Others have found themselves the victim of predatory lending practices and are in danger of losing their homes. Unfortunately, incentives in our financial system made that predatory lending possible: unscrupulous mortgage brokers were not required to provide sufficient information to homeowners, and those who then sold the mortgages had little reason to see that they were sound.
To help address this issue, I support the National Homeowners Bill of Rights Act, which would add several protections for all homeowners, including:
- Require servicers to provide translation services to improve communications;
- Increase protection during loan transfers and penalties for robo-signing practices;
- Enhance protections for tenants in foreclosed homes;
- Establish limitations on when foreclosure proceedings can be initiated; and
- Require servicers to evaluate loan modification eligibility and offer modifications when homeowners are eligible.
I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that those who engaged in these practices are held responsible and that such practices are never allowed again.
Every American deserves a safe and respectable place to live. That’s why I introduced the Stop Foreclosures due to Congressional Dysfunction Act with the support of 66 colleagues. The legislation would impose a 6-month moratorium on foreclosures for individuals who have lost their emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) due to recent congressional inaction. The legislation would require that the Federal Housing Finance Agency direct the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – to establish a six-month moratorium on foreclosures of GSE-guaranteed mortgages for borrowers provided that the borrowers were in good standing before losing their unemployment insurance. I also sent a letter to Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt, co-signed by 77 of my colleagues, asking him take action himself if Congress could not act on my bill.
I also introduced the Truth in Settlements Act a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation that would make more transparent the process by which the Department of Justice holds these banks and other companies accountable when they engage in inscrutable business practices like those that caused the mortgage crisis and the ensuing Great Recession.
Additionally, I have urged the House Appropriations Committee to increase funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Counseling Assistance Program, which provides the entire spectrum of counseling for homeowners, including pre-purchase counseling, foreclosure mitigation, reverse mortgages, rental assistance, and homelessness assistance.
As your Congressman, I will always fight to ensure that all of my constituents can find and keep affordable housing.