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Mortgage bill faces tough road in Congress

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 18, 2013 at 3:07 am •  Published: February 18, 2013
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Nearly 12 million homeowners have Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans and stand to benefit refinancing, the two senators said. Many can't refinance at a lower rate because of red tape and high fees. The red tape has reduced competition among banks, so borrowers pay higher interest rates than they would if they were able to shop around more, according to the senators.

The bill also would reduce up-front fees that borrowers pay on refinances and eliminate appraisal costs for all borrowers. The measure seeks to expand the Obama administration's Home Affordable Refinancing Program, which saves an average homeowner about $2,500 per year, they said.

"Homeowners will have more money in their pockets, Fannie and Freddie will see fewer foreclosures, and the housing market and economy will continue building momentum," Boxer said.

Among the bill's supporters are the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders.

"It is another tool that can be out there to help stabilize the housing market and kick start the economy if consumers can, in fact, put another $100 bucks in their pockets every month," said John Hudson, government affairs chairman of the Association of Mortgage Professionals.

Similar proposals by Boxer and Menendez last year got bogged down in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Republican attempts to add amendments on other housing issues beyond refinancing led to a stalemate.

Twenty Senate Democrats are co-sponsors of this year's bill, but no Republicans have signed on.

"I support finding ways to smartly streamline the refinance process, but I'm not sure that eliminating all documentation requirements makes sense," said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a committee member. "I also think we need to quickly move beyond short-term stimulus and start focusing on the structural issues in our housing finance system."

Sen. Mike Crapo, the committee's top Republican, declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the bill.

Welch's House bill also died during the last Congress. Welch accused Republicans of not wanting to give Obama an election-year boost by passing the mortgage refinance measure.

"Last year was even tougher because it was an election year," said Welch. "The Republican leadership wanted Obama to fail."