Help For Homeowners

From Congressman Paul Kanjorski:

TROUDSBURG, Pa. — (May 31, 2008) – In an uncertain real estate, economic and consumer climate, homeowners, housing counselors, lenders, and public officials gathered today for the Pocono Mountain Association of REALTORSĀ® (PMAR) and the Pocono Builder’s Association (PBA) “Homebuyer’s and Homeowner’s Education Seminar,” to learn about homebuyer and homeowner opportunities.

       The speakers outlined federal, state and local programs and counseling was available for homeowners.

       “This high public interest showcases once again the need for education and information for area citizens and how responsive they are and how interested they are in hearing about their options to purchase homes as first time buyers or to remain in their current home,” said Cherylann Houseman, director of government affairs for PMAR. “Many individuals recognize that they might benefit, either now or at a later date, from the information they receive today.”

       Following brief introductions from sponsors PMAR and PBA, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) discussed legislative efforts in Congress to curb the housing problems nationally and in the region, and he encouraged homeowners facing difficulties to seek help.  

“Many families facing the threat of losing their homes to foreclosure can negotiate changes to the terms of their mortgages if they communicate with their lenders, but they need help in understanding how to do that,” said Congressman Kanjorski.  “Counselors are available to help homeowners through this traumatic experience.  Because foreclosure is an expensive process for everyone involved, lenders are often willing to make concessions that will allow families to stay in their homes.”

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Congressman Kanjorski added, “From my position on the Financial Services Committee, I have worked to pass legislation in the House that will aid homeowners potentially facing foreclosures, boost the economy, and help prevent many problems in the housing market from occurring again by stopping predatory lending practices.  The rising number of foreclosures can have a profound impact on entire communities, not just the particular families at risk of losing their homes.  We need to work to avoid as many foreclosures as possible.”

“When looking to purchase a first home, or even a vacation or dream home, being well informed and educated should be a homeowners and home buyer’s priority,” said Eileen Chaladoff, president of the Pocono Mountains Association of REALTORSĀ®.  “Of course we always recommend having a local REALTOR help you navigate the entire process, but certainly, events such as this one give consumers great ideas and information on the many options open to them as buyers and owners.”

Following the presentations, attendees met with PMAR and PBA affiliate members like lenders and bankers as well as the invited speakers about specifics on available programs. Groups available with information and services included First Horizon Home Loans; Indymac Bank; the PA Housing Finance Agency with information on their First Time Homebuyers Program, Refinance Program, Homeownership Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program; the United Neighborhood Centers of NEPA with information on their Homeowner Counseling Services; the Redevelopment Authority of Monroe County with information on their First Time Homebuyers Program; East Stroudsburg Saving Association’s Bank-First Time Homebuyer Program; Mr. Insideout Inspections, who will detail information on home inspections; Liberty Homes Custom Builders, an affordable housing builder; and National City Mortgage, a division of National City Bank.

“As the voice of the building industry, our association strives to be a resource for the consumer,” said Peter Gallagher, president of the Pocono Builders Association. “We understand the importance of being a partner with the Board of Realtors and our local politicians in order to bring this information together and reinforce that the American dream of home ownership is still attainable to all who are willing to work for it.”

Congressman Kanjorski: Working in Congress to Curb the Current Housing Problems

Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) has worked to respond to the current economic turmoil, including the problems in the housing market, with several specific legislative actions in the 110th Congress.

Throughout his tenure as a member of the House Financial Services Committee and now as the leader of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises, Chairman Kanjorski has acted to resolve many similar economic difficulties, from the Savings and Loan crisis in the late 1980s to the mortgage lending problems faced by his own district in the Poconos just several years ago.  Learning from these past experiences, Chairman Kanjorski has responded to the current crisis with specific legislative action in the 110th Congress.

Chairman Kanjorski worked in the House to enact the economic stimulus package in February, which began sending out recovery rebates to families at the end of April.  These rebates are designed to boost the economy and help people with their finances.  Congressman Kanjorski helped lead the successful effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to include cash payments for 20 million additional senior citizens and 250,000 additional disabled veterans nationwide who would have otherwise been excluded from the stimulus package.

The economic stimulus package also raised the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 2008 loan limits in Monroe, Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Columbia counties more than $70,000 (from $200,160 to $271,050) and up to $402,500 in Carbon County.  This temporary change will help more homebuyers in Northeastern Pennsylvania to use the stability of FHA as a resource for their mortgage financing.

On May 8, the House passed the FHA enhancement bill to allow the FHA to take on up to $300 billion in refinanced loans for struggling homeowners.  This legislation would help approximately 500,000 financially strapped American families facing foreclosure to keep their homes, and protect the home values of families living nearby.  The legislation is not a bailout.  It requires both homeowners and lenders to take responsibility for their mortgages.  Chairman Kanjorski’s Emergency Mortgage Loan Modification Act of 2008 was folded into the House-passed bill, too.  The Chairman’s bill eliminates the fear of legal action from investors for loan servicers that work with families facing mortgage defaults to modify the terms of the loan.

Also in May, the House passed the Neighborhood Stabilization Act to provide $15 billion in loans and grants to states to acquire vacant, foreclosed homes.  The legislation would allow local communities to rehabilitate foreclosed properties, which currently drive down surrounding home property values.  Once restored, these homes would be placed back on the market and sold or rented at affordable rates.  The Congressional Research Service estimates that Pennsylvania would receive nearly $600 million for grants and loans as a result of this legislation, if enacted as currently drafted.

In November, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act.  Currently pending in the Senate, this bill includes Chairman Kanjorski’s Escrow, Appraisal, and Mortgage Servicing Improvements Act, which requires escrow accounts for property taxes and homeowners insurance for many borrowers, improves appraisal independence, and enhances mortgage servicing.  Many of the provisions in his legislation address problems first identified at a field hearing Congressman Kanjorski held at East Stroudsburg University in June, 2004.  The House-passed bill also includes broker licensing, education, and oversight reforms that Chairman Kanjorski first advocated putting in place nearly three years ago.

Additionally, in February, Chairman Kanjorski announced the appropriation of $230 million in federal funding, as laid out in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, for housing counseling and mortgage foreclosure mitigation activities.  These funds will make it possible for more families facing foreclosure to obtain help in negotiating changes to their mortgages to allow them to remain in their homes.  Signed into law in December, the bill allocates $180 million for NeighborWorks America to make grants to credit counseling agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and $50 million for housing counseling through HUD’s housing counseling assistance program.

Congressman Kanjorski encourages homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure to contact their lender or servicer as early as possible.  Alternatively, they can contact housing counselors with HOPE NOW by calling 888-995-HOPE (4673) or the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency at 800-822-1174.  If people have other questions, they can contact Congressman Kanjorski’s office at http://kanjorski.house.gov/ or 800-222-2346.

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