WASHINGTON, D.C .– Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), co-chair of the Housing Stabilization Task Force, and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to Acting Director Edward DeMarco of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to request he meet with members of Congress to begin discussing a plan to review, evaluate, and implement the mortgage refinance proposal mentioned by the President in his address to Congress.
Cardoza recruited 27 other members of the House of Representatives to join him and Ranking Member Cummings in signing the letter.
“I have been calling on President Obama to take decisive action on the housing crisis since the beginning of the recession,” Cardoza said in a news release. “This is an opportunity for the President’s Administration to get this right and listen to Members of Congress who are on the front lines of this disaster.”
In his address to Congress on Sept. 8, President Obama stated,
“[T]o help responsible homeowners, we're going to work with Federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent—a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family's pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.”
Congressman Cardoza was encouraged by this news and with Ranking Member Cummings, sent a letter last Friday to Acting Director DeMarco with the request,
“We are writing to request that you make key agency officials available next week for a meeting with Members to begin discussing a plan to review, evaluate, and implement the proposal made by the President last night to help more American families refinance their mortgages at historically low interest rates.”
This request was quickly rebuffed, however, when his Office of Congressional Affairs sent an email response later that day indicating that officials from the FHFA believe it would be premature to “brief” members of Congress, according to the news release.
Today, Cardoza and Cummings again wrote,
“Contrary to the assertion made by your Office of Congressional Affairs, the letter from Representatives Cummings and Cardoza did not request a ‘briefing.’ It requested a meeting that would enable us to begin a detailed dialogue about the process by which agency officials will ‘review, evaluate, and implement the President's proposal.’”
“Contrary to another assertion made by the Office of Congressional Affairs, this meeting would not be premature—if anything, it is overdue. Legislation similar to the President's proposal has been pending in both the House and Senate for months. On Friday, you issued a public statement in response to the President's address indicating that your office has been ‘analyzing these issues’ and discussing them with ‘a range of stakeholders.’ As Members of Congress who have been tirelessly seeking to support renewed economic growth by stabilizing the housing market, we certainly deserve the same courtesy and consideration as other stakeholders in this process.”
“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee more than 50% of all existing mortgages, including the mortgages of millions of responsible U.S. homeowners who are currently underwater. We appreciate that FHFA is examining ways to respond to the President's call to action, but we would like to speak with the officials responsible for implementing this proposal now rather than later.”
Today’s letter, the news release stated, significantly increases the pressure on FHFA to act quickly on the President’s proposal, which is similar to bipartisan legislation introduced in the House and Senate that garnered widespread support from industry, investors and consumer groups.
In 2009, Congressman introduced the Housing Opportunity and Mortgage Equity (HOME) Act, which would help up to 30 million struggling homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to benefit from current historically low market interest rates and refinance for up to 40 years at a fixed single-digit rate. This would significantly lower the homeowner’s monthly mortgage payments, resulting in fewer foreclosures, while stabilizing the housing market and the national economy.