WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act, which passed the House today with bipartisan support. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“When it comes to economics, none of us is an island. Our prosperity is, and always will be, bound up with the prosperity of our neighbors. And nothing has proved that more than the mortgage crisis that is rocking our economy. Yes, it has reached to the heights of Wall Street to threaten huge banks and the Government-Sponsored Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“But the crisis began close to home. It began with millions of families who have seen their subprime mortgage rates jump out of reach—sometimes because they didn’t understand the repercussions, but often because they were misled by unscrupulous, unregulated lenders. The consequences will be felt close to home, as well: Home prices are set to decline for the second year running, the first time that’s happened since the Great Depression.
“And communities are facing a vicious cycle of foreclosures, falling property values, declining property tax collections, cutbacks in city services, rising crime, and more foreclosures. So the bill we debate today isn’t simply about helping hundreds of thousands of Americans keep their homes, as vital as that is. It is about stabilizing an entire economy.
“As Fed Chairman Bernanke put it: ‘Doing what we can to avoid preventable foreclosures is not just in the interest of lenders and borrowers. It’s in everybody’s interest.’
“I couldn’t agree more, and that’s why I’m proud to support this Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act. This legislation will enable at least 400,000 homeowners to refinance their homes, switching from risky subprime mortgages to safer loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. It’s not a bailout: Lenders will have to take losses, and borrowers must agree to share with the government any profit from the resale of a refinanced home. The bill also helps stabilize communities that are reeling from foreclosures and declining property values by helping states and cities buy up foreclosed properties.
“Furthermore, this bill creates a strong, independent regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It also gives the Treasury Department temporary authority to extend credit to the GSEs, should they require it. The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that there is ‘probably better than a 50 percent chance’ that this authority will not need to be used. But even if it is not, this bill will go a long way toward shoring up confidence in our financial markets.
“Mr. Speaker, there is barely a Member in this body whose constituents have not felt the pain of this housing crisis—whether the personal crisis of losing a home, or the ripple effects set off by each foreclosure. The needs of our constituents outweigh the demands of ideology—that’s always true, but at moments like this we feel that truth more acutely than usual. So I hope that my colleagues will put partisanship aside and do the right thing for our economy, and for our neighbors. I urge my colleagues: Vote for this vital, common-sense bill.”