MORE HELP FOR THE HOUSING MARKET

President Obama, in his State of the Union address Tuesday, vowed to keep the “American dream” alive, which included several efforts aimed at lifting the economy and the ailing housing market.

Obama said that he intends to submit a plan to Congress that will help more underwater home owners — those who owe more than their home’s current value — to refinance.

“No more red tape,” Obama said during the speech. “No more runaround from the banks.”

Obama said he will propose expanding the Home Affordable Refinance Program so more home owners can take advantage of low mortgage rates, which could save home owners about $3,000 a year on their mortgage.

Obama also said he will start a new fraud task force aimed at cracking down on mortgage fraud. He called for more investigations into mortgage fraud and other abusive practices that led to the housing crisis.

“This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to home owners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans,” Obama said in his speech.

NAR: Housing Needs to Be Top Priority

Meanwhile, the National Association of REALTORS® in a statement commended Obama for his remarks during the State of the Union in support of home owners and those who are struggling in the housing market.

NAR’s 2012 President Moe Veissi urged the White House to host a national housing summit to further discussions about how to advance policies that could move the housing market toward recovery.

“We must make housing a national public policy priority,” Veissi said in a statement. “REALTORS® believe that more must be done to stem the rising inventory of foreclosed homes and address the lack of available and affordable mortgage financing, which is inhibiting a meaningful housing market recovery.”

Veissi said more needs to be done to help struggling home owners who are at risk of losing their homes, such as by modifying loans and helping home owners significantly reduce their monthly mortgage payments. Veissi also called for changes to the short sale process, which is often “time-consuming” and “inefficient” when it comes to lenders approving “reasonable offers when families can no longer keep their homes.”

“Keeping people in their homes and reducing foreclosures will help minimize the negative impact of distressed properties on home values and neighborhoods,” Veissi said in the statement. “Expanding financing opportunities could also help reduce excess inventories of distressed properties. Increased fees and higher down payments are making it harder for many creditworthy home buyers and investors to obtain financing, thwarting the sale of distressed properties and prolonging the impact those homes have on local markets,” said Veissi.