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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Recognizing National Homeownership Month

August 4, 2009
Floor Statement
Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation which recognizes June as National Homeownership Month. As Chair of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, I am indeed committed to good public policy that will assist citizens to realize the American dream of homeownership. I would like to thank Representative Gary Miller for his continued leadership on ensuring that this resolution comes to the floor every year. This is the seventh time that he has introduced this resolution, and I appreciate his commitment to America's homeowners. Preserving homeownership is more important today than ever before, with foreclosures reaching record levels and millions more Americans struggling to stay in their homes. Homeownership has historically been the single most important wealth-building tool available to families in this country. However, homeownership, as we know it, is at risk. The foreclosure crisis has all but erased the gains we have made in increasing homeownership rates, especially for minorities; and the gains those families thought they had achieved through increases in home equity have also diminished as now 20 percent of homeowners owe more on their homes than they are worth.

The combination of unemployment, unsustainable and predatory mortgages, and uncooperative mortgage servicers has created a perfect storm of record rates, of loan defaults and foreclosures. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, a record 12 percent of mortgages are either in default or in foreclosure. According to the Center For Responsible Lending, 6,500 foreclosures occur each day in the United States. By the end of 2009, there will be 2.4 million families in foreclosure. We must keep families in their homes, and this Congress and the administration have developed programs to do just that. For example, the Making Home Affordable program, announced by President Barack Obama in March, builds on legislation I introduced at the beginning of this Congress to end this unending avalanche of foreclosures.

Despite the commitment from the administration and Congress to reduce foreclosures, mortgage servicers have been reluctant to modify troubled loans. In fact, NeighborWorks recently found in its survey of housing counseling agencies that servicers are generally uncooperative. They take up to 60 days to respond to requests and frequently lose important documents. In order to be true to the spirit of National Homeownership Month, I call on all mortgage servicers to fully participate in the Making Home Affordable program and to work with families to maintain their ownership.

Vulnerable homeowners are also threatened by scam artists who offer to rescue or help struggling homeowners stay in their homes for an exorbitant fee that must be paid up front. They often deliver either nothing or a higher payment than the homeowner was paying before contacting these companies. The Federal Trade Commission has begun to crack down on these scammers, and I support these efforts.

Prospective homeowners are also caught up in this economic crisis. Because they have no other home to sell, first-time homebuyers have the ability to help stabilize housing prices and neighborhoods. Housing experts are saying that now is the time to buy, but many first-time homebuyers are finding themselves locked out of the housing market. Many families who would otherwise be buying homes now lack the required down payment. Fortunately, the recently enacted $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers is now being monetized so that these homeowners can use it to pay closing costs or to assist with their down payment. 

America's homeowners face many challenges this month and will face many more this year. This resolution demonstrates this Congress' commitment to assisting them and first-time homebuyers in achieving the American dream of homeownership.

I urge all of my colleagues to support this important resolution.