A Call to Help Homeowners
President Obama spoke in Reno about mortgage relief
On Friday, President Barack Obama gave a speech in Reno, Nevada, about the nation's housing crisis. But instead of speaking to a room packed full of hundreds of people, President Obama addressed a more intimate audience.
The President spoke in front of the home of Paul and Valerie Keller. Across the street, nearly 100 neighbors gathered to listen to the President's remarks.
The Keller's residence was chosen for this event because Paul and Valerie use the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP.
HARP is aimed at helping Americans whose homes are underwater. A home is considered underwater when the people who own the home owe more money on the home's mortgage than what the home is worth. For example, if a homeowner is repaying a $200,000 mortgage on a home that is worth $100,000, then that home is underwater.
Sixty percent of homes in Nevada are underwater. This is the largest number of homes in the country. President Obama's speech focused on his plans to help homeowners by refinancing their mortgages.
"I'm calling on Congress to give every responsible homeowner the chance to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage," the President said. "It's a simple idea. It makes great sense. And I know it will have an impact."
Under HARP, refinancing applications in Nevada are up 230 percent while applications are up 50 percent nationally. While this is a good thing, Obama said more work needs to be done. The number of people eligible to use the program is too small.
Right now, only people who have government-backed mortgages are able to use HARP and refinance their homes. The President wants to expand that opportunity to every homeowner. But Congress needs to pass legislation to make that happen.
"There's absolutely no reason why [Congress] can't make this happen right now," President Obama said. "If they started now, in a couple of weeks, in a month, they could make every homeowner in America who is underwater right now eligible to be able to refinance their homes — if they're making their payments, if they're responsible, if they're doing the right thing."
"So it's the right thing to do," the President continued. "There's already a bill in the works. It's supported by independent, nonpartisan economists. It's supported by industry leaders. Congress should pass it right now."
The President closed his speech by urging Americans to contact Congress and get the mortgage relief bill passed.
After the speech, he left the podium and went to the crowd to shake hands and talk to people in the crowd.
The people who came to hear the President speak were a mix of supporters and skeptics.
One Obama fan, Michelle Grahm, said it was important that the President came to Reno.
"One out of four people had housing problems in Nevada," Grahm told the Kids Press Corps. She added that she thought "HARP is great."
Reno resident Kurt Jameson felt differently.
"I think it all was a publicity stunt," he said about the speech. "It was just for pictures of kissing babies foreheads. But good for [the Kellers]."
Jameson stressed that HARP doesn't work for everyone, and added that the the money spent on organizing the President's speech could have been given to a needing charity or the homeless.
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