Barack Obama to Announce Actions on Housing During His Western Trip

President Barack Obama this week will announce a series of actions to help the economy that will not require congressional approval, including an initiative to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages, according to the White House official.

With his jobs plan stymied in Congress by Republican opposition, President Obama on Monday will begin a series of executive-branch actions to confront housing, education and other economic problems over the coming months, heralded by a new mantra: “We can’t wait” for lawmakers to act. Photo: Pete Souza/The Official White House

The actions come as Obama is facing resistance from Republicans to a $447 billion jobs package he has urged Congress to pass. The first of the initiatives will be unveiled during Obama’s three-day trip to western states beginning Monday.

Mr. Obama is going to announce his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure.

He will discuss the changes in mortgage rules at a stop in Nevada, which has one of the hardest-hit housing markets in the country.

The housing proposal that Mr. Obama will announce in Las Vegasis rooted in the independent Federal Housing Finance Agency, the office created to oversee the government-sponsored housing finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after they were forced into conservator ship at the outset of the financial crisis in 2008.

While details remain sketchy, the initiative is expected to change eligibility standards for the three-year-old Home Affordable Refinance Program to encourage new, lower-cost loans to more homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth.

The “We can’t wait” campaign is a new phase in Mr. Obama’s so-far unsuccessful effort — punctuated until now by his cries of “Pass this bill!” on the stump — to pressure Republicans to support the job creation package he proposed after Labor Day. It comes after unanimous votes by Senate Republicans in the past week to block the plan; House Republican leaders have refused to put the measure to a vote.

Mr. Obama will announce at least one initiative each week through the rest of the year, including steps to help returning veterans and small businesses. Yet the officials acknowledge that the coming policy changes, executive orders and agency actions are generally less far-reaching than the legislative proposals now before Congress.

“The only way we can truly attack our economic challenges is with bold, bipartisan action in Congress,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told The New York Times.

“The president will continue to pressure Congressional Republicans to put country before party and pass the American Jobs Act, but he believes we cannot wait, so he will act where they won’t.”

On Sunday the Senate Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell o fKentucky, offered an alternate narrative, saying that Mr. Obama, for all his complaints about Republican opposition, had given little prominence to his signing of three free-trade agreements that won bipartisan approval this month.

“They’re ashamed to mention any of the things that they do with Republicans because it steps on their story line,” Mr. McConnell said on the CNN program “State of the Union.” “Their story line is that there must be some villain out there who’s keeping this administration from succeeding.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in a CNN appearance on Sunday, said the administration would continue to work with federal agencies “to loosen restrictions on the ability to refinance” and also press the banks, “so they can get in the business of actually doing what we think they should have been doing much more of, and that is sitting down and renegotiating with people who are about to go under.” [via The New York Times and Reuters]

Share this article

We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language, all capital letters or appear to be spam, and we review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Coinspeaker Ltd.