President Obama Unveils Housing Initiative at Super Tuesday News Conference


President Obama today unveiled his administration’s latest plan to tackle the housing crisis, announcing new mortgage relief for U.S. military personnel and homeowners with government-insured loans at his first news conference of the year.

Obama told reporters at his 19th solo White House news conference that he is not satisfied to “sit by and wait while the housing market hits bottom,” casting himself as a president in charge of the recovery.

The president’s plan lets borrowers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration refinance at lower rates, saving the typical borrower roughly $1,000 a year, according to the White House.

Such a step will “make refinancing even more attractive to families,” Obama said, noting that it was akin to a tax cut for U.S. families.

While the president called for Congress to act on his broader mortgage refinance plan, he emphasized that the steps he announced today require no congressional approval.

The president also announced relief for military personnel forced to sell their homes for less than the amount owed because of a permanent change in their station.

“It is unconscionable,” Obama said, that members of the armed forces and their families have been some of the most susceptible to losing their homes because of the actions of unscrupulous banks and lenders.

Service members will receive refunds if they were wrongfully denied the opportunity to reduce their mortgage payments through lower interest rates. In addition, any military personnel wrongly foreclosed upon will be compensated for lost equity, plus interest and $116,785.

The president’s news conference today came as voters head to the polls in 10 GOP “Super Tuesday” contests.

“Now, I understand there are some political contests going on tonight, but I thought I’d start the day off by taking a few questions, which I’m sure will not be political in nature,” Obama quipped.

It was not the first time the president sought to counter-program the Republican primaries. He gave a fiery speech touting his bailout of the auto industry and criticizing his Republican rivals for the presidency last Tuesday, the same day as the Michigan and Arizona primaries.

It has been five months to the day since the president’s last formal, solo, White House news conference. By MARY BRUCE and DEVIN DWYER


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