President Obama is heading straight into the heart of the housing crisis — Nevada — to unveil a series of executive branch steps to give the economy a shot in the arm, beginning with new rules making it easier for underwater homeowners to refinance their mortgages.
The White House is calling the new roll-out the “We-Can’t-Wait” program, a not-so-subtle jab at Republicans in Congress, who have spent the last two weeks blocking Obama’s job bill. Las Vegas’ economy was one of the hardest hit by the housing crisis.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said President Obama is committed to finding ways to bolster the economy on his own — without the help of Congress, which blocked the President’s jobs package a week and a half ago and opposed a portion focused on spending to rehire teachers and first responders when it came up for a separate vote last Thursday.
“When Congress won’t act, this President will,” Pfeiffer said.
Obama will meet with homeowners in Las Vegas late Monday afternoon to discuss changes to the two-year-old Home Affordable Refinance Program aimed at helping homeowners will little to no equity refinance to lower rates by reducing fees and removing restrictions to homeowners with federally guaranteed mortgages who are current on their payments.
“Today’s announcement is a very significant step in moving more families who have met their responsibilities into a position to refinance at significant savings,” Gene Sperling, the top White House economic adviser, told reporters Monday.
With Republicans in Congress blocking the President’s jobs plans, the White House is trying to find ways to circumvent the legislative branch and do what it can to make policy changes at the executive level. White House officials announced plans to change rules governing student loans later this week in an effort to help students better manage their payments.
With mortgage interest rates at record lows, Sperling and Housing and Urban Development said their analysis shows that a homeowner could save roughly $2,500 a year by refinancing.
“It’s the equivalent of a substantial tax cut for these families,” Donovan said.
Obama had considered including the changes to the mortgage refinancing in the jobs bill he rolled out last month, Sperling said, but thought the administration could act on them more quickly itself rather than relying on Congress to pass them.
The Obama administration has been working with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to find ways to ease the mortgage burden on underwater borrowers.