The Housing issue is important to my district and to my work in Congress.
There are many statistical measures one may use to calculate the well-being of the average American. But the truth is one need look no further than the middle class to gauge how well our nation is doing. As a Member of Congress, I have the opportunity to vote on bills that make a difference.
I believe that one of the best ways to turn our ailing economy around is to take steps to make sure that more Americans are able to keep their current homes. As your Congressman, I have worked to pass legislation that would make it easier for more Americans to stay in their homes by giving them the tools necessary to avoid foreclosure.
The foreclosure epidemic has affected thousands of families in Memphis and we all stand to lose if we do not stop the steep decline in home prices. By keeping families in their homes, we help preserve neighborhoods because foreclosures often result in the deterioration of surrounding property and an influx in crime. Although the economy is beginning to bounce back, we are still working through tough economic times and many responsible borrowers are finding it difficult to make their mortgage payments.
I introduced H.R. 1131, Preventing Homeowners from Foreclosure Act of 2011 to establish a grant program for state and local governments to carry out programs to provide mediation between homeowners and lenders to prevent foreclosure. It would help fund local outreach efforts to make distressed homeowners aware of the program and of special loss-mitigation tools that may help them save homes.
Stabilizing the housing market is central to restoring the American economy. My legislation would assist with the foreclosure crisis which has affected every community across the nation. We must give those across the country a chance to stay in their homes rather than face eviction.
Like many Americans, I am concerned with the high levels of unemployment among our nation’s veterans. It is important that we help provide these veterans with every opportunity to succeed and find adequate housing in recognition of their service. I cosponsored H.R. 287, the Homes for Heroes Act of 2011, which will create a special assistant for veterans affairs in the Department of Housing and Urban Development tasked with ensuring that veteran have access to HUD housing and homeless assistance programs. In addition to this, I cosponsored H.R. 284, the Veterans, Women, Families with Children, and Persons With Disabilities Housing Fairness Act of 2011, which would authorize funds to prevent housing discrimination through the use of nationwide testing, to increase funds for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program, and for other purposes.
In July 2010, I held a Congressional field hearing in Memphis on our area’s foreclosure crisis. I had the great honor of serving as Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law and used the position to shine a spotlight in Congress on the home foreclosure crisis. The hearing was held at the University Of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School Of Law. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who serves with me on the House Judiciary Committee, also participated. We discussed a variety of issues related to the home foreclosure crisis including the Wells Fargo lawsuit, how to make the bankruptcy process more fair for homeowners, what legal services are available to those facing foreclosure, and how community organizations are assisting homeowners.
In March 2009, I hosted a foreclosure assistance workshop at the Hickory Hill Community Center. The workshop provided homeowners concerned with rising mortgage payments or foreclosure with timely, confidential information and objective advice from trained counselors. The workshop was convened in light of the nationwide foreclosure crisis, which has hit hard in Memphis.
We all stand to lose if we do not stop the steep decline in home prices. In fact, each foreclosed home reduces nearby property values by as much as 9 percent. By keeping families in their homes, we help preserve neighborhoods because foreclosures often result in the deterioration of neighboring property and an influx in crime. Stopping foreclosures also helps state and local governments by keeping homes on the tax rolls.
The House passed several pieces of legislation that addresses the foreclosure crisis and helps the nation’s struggling economy, all of which I am proud to have voted for: The House passed the final Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which was signed into law by the President in May 2009. This legislation provided key tools and incentives for lenders, servicers, and homeowners to modify loans and to avoid foreclosures by:
- Protecting lenders from frivolous lawsuits when they made loan modifications consistent with the Obama Administration’s program or done through the Hope for Homeowners program;
- Reducing the current fees for homeowners and lenders that discouraged them from participating in the Hope for Homeowners program;
- Offering new incentives for lenders to negotiate loan modifications with borrowers at risk of foreclosure under the Hope for Homeowners program; and
- Expanding the President’s loan modification program to FHA and mortgages in rural areas (RHS).
The Hope for Homeowners program helps individuals at risk of default and foreclosure to refinance into more affordable, sustainable loans. Hope for Homeowners is an additional mortgage option designed to keep borrowers in their homes. The program is effective from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2011. If you are having trouble making your mortgage payments, the Hope for Homeowners program may be able to help you, by refinancing your loan into a new 30-year or 40-year fixed-rate loan with lower payments.
The President's Plan:
The Obama Administration announced the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, a bold housing plan to help up to 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure — as well as their neighbors whose own house values will drop as a result of a nearby foreclosure. The Obama plan takes advantage of historically low mortgage interest rates to:
- Help millions of families refinance into lower interest rate loans if they have mortgages issued or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and owe more on their houses than their current value; and
- Spur lenders into working with families stuck in unaffordable sub-prime mortgages to change the terms of those loans.
- Lenders representing 75 percent of the U.S. mortgage market have agreed to work with troubled homeowners under this program.
The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan allowed eligible borrowers who stayed current on their mortgages but were unable to refinance to lower their interest rates because their homes have decreased in value to have the opportunity to refinance into a 30 or 15 year fixed rate loan. Through the program, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allowed the refinancing of mortgage loans that they hold in their portfolios or that they placed in mortgage backed securities.
In 2009, The House passed H.R. 1728, the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. The bill responds to the sub-prime mortgage crisis by instituting much needed reform to prevent these bad loans from being made in the first place. It stops the kinds of predatory and irresponsible mortgage loan practices that played a major role in the current financial and economic meltdown and prevents borrowers from deliberately misstating their income to qualify for a loan.
To restore the integrity of mortgage lending industry, this bill would make sure that the mortgage industry follows basic principles of sound lending, responsibility, and consumer protection, ensuring that:
- borrowers can repay the loans they are sold;
- mortgage lenders make loans that benefit the consumer and prohibit them from steering borrowers into higher cost loans;
- all mortgage refinancing provides a net tangible benefit to the consumer;
- the secondary mortgage market, for the first time ever, is responsible for complying with these common sense standards when they buy loans and turn them into securities;
- there are incentives for the mortgage market to move back toward making safe, fully documented loans; and
- tenants renting homes that are foreclosed would receive notification and time to relocate.
President Obama and I will continue to do whatever is necessary to break the destructive cycle of job loss in this country and put Americans back to work. That includes our comprehensive plan to help responsible homeowners pay their mortgages and re-finance their homes.
Legislative efforts in the 112th Congress (2011/2012)
This bill directs the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to implement a competitive grants program for states and local governmental entities to establish mediation programs to assist mortgagors under home mortgages facing foreclosure on such mortgages. Requires the program to provide the mortgagor with a referral and contact information for a paid or pro bono attorney or a HUD-certified housing counselor. Requires grant recipients to establish an outreach program to raise homeowner awareness of the existence of the foreclosure mediation program, including a telephone hotline, a website, or both.
This bill establishes a Special Assistant for Veterans Affairs to ensure veteran access to housing and homeless assistance programs, as well as provide a liaison with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to coordinate all programs and activities relating to veterans. Most importantly, this legislation would provide assistance to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives to expand the supply of supportive housing for very low-income veteran families (families with incomes not exceeding 50% of the area median income). This bill would exclude veterans' benefits from income assisted housing rental determinations.
This bill would allow the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to conduct a nationwide testing program to detect and document differences in the treatment of persons seeking to rent or purchase housing, obtain or refinance a home mortgage loan, as well as measuring patterns of adverse treatment because of the race, color, religion, sex, familial status, disability status or national origin of a mortgagee. This legislation would design a national education and outreach program to provide for the development and dissemination of websites and other media outlets among its fair housing media products, as well as requiring private entities that formulate or carry out programs to prevent or eliminate discriminatory housing practices to be nonprofit in order to be eligible for contracts to establish or support education and outreach programs and to support community-based education and outreach activities. Most importantly, this legislation would create pilot programs that would prevent housing discrimination to military veterans and families.
This bill would establish a stable, fair and cost-effective funding system for the Section 8 program. It would also restore previous assistance levels by authorizing 150,000 new vouchers. Under the bill, several critical provisions streamline the process of providing Section 8 housing assistance. The calculations governing tenant rent payments are simplified, reducing the burden on housing agencies, tenants and private owners of subsidized housing. The bill likewise streamlines the housing inspection process, by requiring HUD to address administrative burdens that make it difficult to transfer vouchers between jurisdictions. Additionally, the bill provides the flexibility needed for public housing authorities to preserve affordable housing by allowing agencies to make greater use of “project-based” vouchers.
The bill also reforms Moving to Work, renaming it the Housing Innovation Program, which currently permits the Department of Housing and Urban Development to waive certain regulations for 30 public housing agencies, allowing them to experiment with different rent structures and programs. To ensure the efficacy of the program in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable households, the bill provides for rigorous evaluation requirements, stronger tenant protections, and clearer program goals to ensure effective use of federal funds.
Legislative efforts in the 111th Congress (2009/2010)
This bill would allow families to modify housing loans in the event of a chapter 13 foreclosure notice by reducing the claim to equal the value of the debtor's interest. This would allow more families to keep their homes by making modifications to the adjustable rate of interest waive early repayment or prepayment penalties by extending the repayment period. It would also remove liability for certain fees and charges incurred while the bankruptcy case is pending and arising from a debt secured by the debtor's principal residence.
This bill would create a housing assistance payment contract to provide a tenant who is incurring interest since going into foreclosure during the initial term of the lease to vacate their home prior to sale without terminating their original lease. This legislation also creates a housing assistance payment contract between public housing agencies and tenants to ensure that the owner of the property in foreclosure assumes interest payments on the lease between the prior owner and the tenant subject to the housing assistance payments contract between the prior owner and the public housing agency for the occupied unit. If the new owner cannot be identified, rental funds will be used to pay for the owner’s property utilities or for reasonable moving costs.
This legislation would extend a tax credit to first-time homebuyer and issue a waiver for recapture requirements through 2010. It would also allow first-time homebuyers who claimed a $7,500 tax credit in 2008 to claim the same worry-free benefit that 2009 homebuyers now receive without paying it back, as the previous credit requires. The first-time homebuyer tax credit will make a real difference in the housing market by spurring a market that has struggled since the start of the recession. The goal of my legislation is to help continue this positive momentum and get our economy back on track. The housing market is a real indicator of the health of our nation’s economy and this legislation will improve our economic future.
This legislation would expand and improve the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which provides subsidized housing vouchers for 2 million families. The Section Eight Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA) would authorize an additional 150,000 new vouchers, simplify inspections, reform the rent setting process, and improve the funding formula for the Section 8 program. The bill would also reform the Moving-to-Work program, which currently allows about 30 public housing agencies to experiment with different rent structures and programs.
The bill allows a family receiving a foreclosure notice to petition a judge to stay in their home as renters under a 5-year lease. The judge would appoint an independent appraiser to set fair market rental value, which would be allowed to rise with inflation. This bill will help neighborhoods avoid the spiral of decay, crime and lower property values that often follows mass vacancies without creating any new bureaucracy or transferring a dime of taxpayer money to homeowners or banks. To prevent use of the program by speculators, eligibility would be limited to homes purchased at or below the median price for their metropolitan statistical area and must have been the family’s principal residence for no less than 2 years.
Legislative efforts in the 110th Congress (2007/2008)
The bill would increase the size of individual mortgage loans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase for loans originated between July 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2008. These enterprises would each be permitted to buy loans that are the lesser of 125 percent of an area's median price or $729,750 (the current loan limit is $417,000). For loans that received approval prior to Dec. 31, 2008, this measure would also temporarily increases Federal Housing Administration loan limits to the lessor of 125 percent of an area's median home price or $729,750 from the current loan limit of $362,000. Additionally, the Economic Stimulus provided tax rebates. (Signed into law Feb. 13, 2008.)
This is the financial bailout bill, which passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 263-171, with 91 Republicans voting in favor of the legislation. The bill was designed to stabilize the financial markets and free up credit for businesses and families by authorizing the Treasury Secretary to purchase illiquid assets. The bill also contained numerous taxpayer protections including a recoupment provision to ensure taxpayers are repaid, homeowner protections, limits on excessive CEO compensation, and strong oversight and transparency. It also raised the amount of bank deposits insured by FDIC from $100,000 to $250,000. Additionally, the bill included extensions of key tax relief provisions and tax incentives for renewable energy. (Signed into law Oct. 3, 2008.)
This legislation would provide comprehensive mortgage refinancing assistance so that families in danger of losing their homes can refinance into lower-cost government-insured mortgages they can afford to repay, and would help at least 400,000 families avoid foreclosure. It passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 272-152, with 45 Republicans voting YEA. The package, comprised of several House passed measures, also created a federal backstop for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are crucial to the mortgage market. This package also contained tax provisions to expand refinancing opportunities and spur home buying, establishes an independent regulator in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, created a new permanent Affordable Housing Trust Fund, raised FHA loan limits to create affordable mortgage loans for moderately priced homes, and provided $3.9 billion in grants to state and local governments for purchasing and rehabilitating foreclosed homes. (Signed into law July 30, 2008.)
Excludes individuals who have all or part of their mortgage debt forgiven from tax liability for the next three years. (Signed into law Dec. 20, 2007.)
Reforms the Section 8 housing vouchers to make their allocation targeted more on need, increases access for rural families, and expands the number of families receiving vouchers. (Passed the House July 12, 2007 by a vote of 333-83.)
Reauthorizes the successful HOPE VI program, which revitalizes severely distressed and obsolete public housing projects through FY 2015 and includes improvements. (Passed the House Jan. 17, 2008, by a vote of 271-130.)
Institutes preemptive reforms to prevent bad loans from being made in the first place; ensures that consumers get mortgages they can repay, strengthens consumer protections against reckless and abusive lending practices and gives consumers the ability to seek redress. (Passed the House Nov. 15, 2007 by a vote of 291-127.)
Would triple the number of new affordable, supportive housing units for low-income people with disabilities constructed each year. I have also cosponsored several additional pieces of legislation that would address affordable housing and economic development issues in our district and across the nation.
Amends the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 to direct the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a grants program for redevelopment activities for brownfield sites and abandoned, idled, and underused industrial, commercial, or housing structures located in brownfield sites.
Amends the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to consolidate housing assistance programs for homeless persons. It also requires the establishment of a community homeless assistance planning board for a geographic area to lead a collaborative planning process to design, execute, and evaluate programs, policies, and practices to prevent and end homelessness.