Buchanan applauds housing act

07/28/08 Seán Kinane
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On Saturday, the Senate passed a bill designed to bail out two of the country’s largest mortgage lenders and help reduce the skyrocketing number of home foreclosures. It had passed in the House earlier in the week and President Bush is expected to sign it into law any day.

This morning in Bradenton, Congress member Vern Buchanan met with homeowners and Manatee County housing advocates about the bill he supported.

Buchanan represents the 13th District, which includes parts of five counties. He stressed that Florida has been hit especially hard by home foreclosures.

“Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte County I looked at in June -- 2,240 [foreclosures] -- that’s a 3.7 percent increase over the previous month of 2161. But more importantly, if you look at it from last year, it’s up 164 percent foreclosures over the same time last year.”

The vote: 272 representatives voted for The American Family Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act – HR 3221. Buchanan said that of the four major parts of the act, the most important would bring stability to the housing market by propping up lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “to bring some stability to them. They do have half of our mortgages in the country. It’s important they’re viable because if they’re not, that could roll into the financial market, the banking markets as well as the capital markets. I think when you look at it all it’s not perfect, there’s things I don’t like about it, but I think it’s a very, very good start.”

Buchanan said his conversation with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson convinced him to support the bill in order to save the housing market and possibly the rest of the economy.

“We need to bring stability to those to organizations.”

The bill increases the national debt limit to $10.6 trillion to make room for a potential bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That’s an increase of $800 billion. Buchanan was one of only 45 Republicans to support the bill in the House. He said that if either Fannie or Freddie goes under, “there is potential exposure” for taxpayers, but they don’t have the biggest risk.

“If the taxpayers have to do anything, there’s a lot of people that have equity position or stocks in those companies. They’ll be at risk first before the taxpayers. So the taxpayers are going to get paid back first before the stockholders.”

The other three aspects of the act should help Floridians with their mortgage problems, Buchanan said.

Becky Lee is a Manatee County resident who refinanced her home two years ago. She can no longer afford her home and is not getting any help from her lender, a major national bank.

“Here I am sitting now with a mortgage I can’t afford.”

Lee and her husband are receiving mortgage counseling from Carol Ciarniello, who teaches courses on financial literacy and home ownership. She suggested that it should be mandatory for all first time home buyers, which Buchanan called a “great idea.”

Timothy Polk is director of Planning and Community Development with the city of Bradenton. He said that some lenders don’t want to work with homeowners to help them afford their mortgage payments.

“There’s a big disconnect from the standpoint of processing.”

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston is enthusiastic that the housing bill could help the “critical” problem of foreclosures and the slumping economy.

“Two years ago we were in the headlines of the Wall Street Journal every week saying we were the hottest housing market in the country, and it happened over and over again. What happened, a lot of investors got in, a lot of people wanted to flip houses, and there were agencies loaning them money just as fast as they could do that. Now that’s come home to roost with us and we have some real issues. And the people that are getting hurt are those families that are in those houses. … Now a lot of people are suffering from that.”

To get free home foreclosure prevention counseling, call 1-888-995-HOPE.

Vern Buchanan

City of Bradenton

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston

U.S. Department of Treasury

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