Rep. John Lewis Defends Need for Mortgage Refinance and Forclosure Assistance


Washington D.C. – March 11, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) –Yesterday Rep. John Lewis spoke out on the floor to help save the American Dream for millions of families. Rep. John Lewis made this impassioned statement on the floor of the House yesterday in an effort to defeat this termination of support for people who need it the most. The U.S. House of Representatives was preparing to vote on the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program Termination Act (H.R. 836) and the FHA Refinance Program Termination Act (H.R. 830). The two bills were authored by the Obama Administration to help main street homeowners in danger of foreclosure to stay in their houses.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today for each and every person who owns a home. I rise today for every American, who has struggled to pay their mortgage each month. I rise for every person who has watched their home, their piece of the American Dream, slip away because they lost their job through no fault of their own, or because they got cancer and are no longer able to work and pay their medical bills. I rise to condemn what these bills are trying to do today. Make no mistake, repealing these programs will close the door on the American Dream for more and more Americans.

Mr. Speaker, when I was a young boy, my family did not own a home. My father was a sharecropper. My mother and father had to “go without” for years. They saved and they saved. They prayed. They waited. My father could never get a mortgage. Mortgages were not available where we lived. They were not available for families like mine. It’s just the way it was.

In 1944, my parents bought a house with three rooms and 110 acres outside a small town called Troy, in rural Alabama. It cost us $300. I couldn’t imagine that much money changing hands at once. I look around this chamber and I see some suits in this room that cost much more then what my father paid. Up until the time she died, my mother spoke about the day we moved in. How proud she was. It was a huge achievement for us. It changed everything. That house – that land- it was ours. Ours.

Looking back, I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have lost it all – for reasons beyond my father’s control. The harvest, or the weather or because it would fix someone else’s bottom line. Mr. Speaker, I know that buying a house is the biggest decision most people will ever make and it is their greatest source of pride. For most people, their dream is their house. It was for me. When I bought my house I thought of my mother and my father. His house made it possible for me to buy mine.

This American dream. It’s built from hard work. But that dream is also made of bricks and mortar. It’s a house, Mr. Speaker! It is a home! And this chamber is shutting the door on that house. (more) They are locking the door on the American Dream. These two bills today would end two new programs that are helping struggling homeowners, who have lost their job through no fault of their own. To me, it is unthinkable.

Mr. Speaker, I strongly oppose H.R. 836 and H.R 830. We must stand up for the American homeowner. We must stand in their corner. We must not walk away from them, in their time of need. I urge my colleagues to stand with me and defeat these bills. Don’t lock the door on the American dream.

The Emergency Mortgage Relief Program was projected to assist 30,000 to 50,000 distressed homeowners. The bill made $1 billion availably by HUD as loans to homeowners who have defaulted on mortgage debt due to no actions of their own. Many of those eligible were unemployed and in debt due to medical bills. The loan would assist with mortgage payments until the homeowner could find a job or resume paying. H.R. 836 authored by the House Republican leadership would end that program.

The FHA Refinance Program, also developed by the Obama Administration to help homeowners who are “underwater,” meaning the mortgage on their homes are now more than the home is worth. This program allows FHA to write-down mortgage principal, refinance loans, reduce monthly payments with the goal of preventing foreclosure. H.R. 830 developed by the House Republican leadership would end this program.

The FHA Refinance Program Termination Act passed the House last night, and by a vote of 256 to 171, split down party lines with Democrats supporting the continuation of this financial support for families. The Emergency Mortgage Relief Program Termination Act is scheduled to be voted on today and is expected to pass the House by the same margin.

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