WASHINGTON -- Seeking to circumvent congressional opposition, President Barack Obama will promote a series of executive branch steps aimed at jumpstarting the economy this week, beginning with new rules to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages.
An administration official said the housing initiative will help homeowners with little or no equity in their homes refinance by cutting the cost of doing so and removing caps for deeply underwater borrowers. The new rules apply to homeowners with federally guaranteed mortgages who are current on their payments.
With the president's jobs bill struggling in Congress, the White House is refocusing its efforts on steps Obama can take to address the nation's economic woes without getting lawmakers' approval. During his three-day trip to the West Coast this week, Obama will use a new catchphrase to try to push Republicans into action: "We can't wait."
It's his latest in a string of slogans aimed at placing blame on Republicans for lack of action on the economy.
GOP leaders counter that the sluggish economy and stubbornly high unemployment rate are the result of Obama administration policies, including the 2009 stimulus package and financial regulation bill, that have failed.
"They got everything they wanted from Congress the first two years. Their policies are in place. And they are demonstrably not working," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday.
Making It Easier To Be Eligible
Last month, Obama announced a $447 billion jobs plan, filled with tax increases on the wealthy and new spending on education, infrastructure and aid to state and local governments. Efforts to pass the full measure were blocked by Senate Republicans, who see the president's proposal as a second stimulus.
That's left Obama and his Democratic allies pushing lawmakers to pass the bill in individual pieces, though the fate of most of the measures remains unclear.
The housing program Obama will discuss Monday will be implemented by the independent Federal Housing Finance Agency. At its core, the initiative will relax eligibility standards for a federal refinancing program, allowing those who owe more on their house than it is worth to take advantage of loans with lower interest rates.
The administration official had no estimate for how many homeowners could be helped by relaxed rules. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the housing program ahead of the president's Las Vegas meeting.
Following his events in Nevada, the president will travel to Los Angeles for three fundraisers for his re-election campaign, including one at the home of movie stars Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas. Obama will also make stops this week in San Francisco and Denver.
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The number of homes on the market has decreased more than 20% in Tallahassee over the past year. Despite the drop in supply, home prices have only increased slightly, with the median list price increasing 3.5% in the same period. The city saw a huge spike in loan defaults recently. In August, defaults increased 81% from the month before. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, this is causing the foreclosure rate to increase.
Time on market: 138 days
Change in # of listings: -26.47% (28th largest)
Median list price: $209,500 (49th highest)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in 238
In September, the West Palm Beach region had more listings than all but a handful of major U.S. cities. However, that number is actually down more than 26% from a year ago. The median home listing price has shot up more than 10% since September 2010, the 11th greatest increase among the 146 cities reviewed in the report. According to Alex Ferreras of the Palm Beach Post, banks are cutting down significantly on the number of homes they foreclose in the region. In 2010, the foreclosure rate of 1 in 238 was one of the highest in the U.S.
Time on market: 140 days
Change in # of listings: -15.88% (77th largest)
Median list price: $250,000 (29th highest)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 3,907 homes
Asheville is located in the Appalachian mountains and is regularly listed has a top vacation destination by travel magazines. The region has one of the highest median home list prices in the country, at $250,000. The Asheville region had an extremely low foreclosure rate of 1 in 3,907 last year compared to 1 in 605 in the U.S.
Time on market: 142 days
Change in # of listings: -30.77% (17th largest)
Median list price: $169,900 (87th highest)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 366 homes
Punta Gorda is one of several Florida cities where home values have fallen more than national average. According to housing experts, most of this is due to overbuilding before the housing market collapsed. Punta Gorda is located on Florida’s west coast between larger cities with significant housing problems — Tampa/St Petersburg and Naples. Home ownership in Punta Gorda is high, among the top ten cities in the U.S. This may be due to in part to the inability of people to sell their homes.
Time on market: 147 days
Change in # of listings: -35.66% (11th largest)
Median list price: $199,900 (51st highest)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 541 homes
Savannah has seen one of the largest decreases in home listings in the country, with a drop of more than 35% in one year. Despite the drop in inventory, home prices declined by 5.19% over this same period. There are currently only 1,484 listings in the city. The median time on the market for these listings has fallen more than 50% in the past year. This is the greatest drop in the country.
Time on market: 147 days
Change in # of listings: -11.95% (100th largest)
Median list price: $184,900 (69th)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 771 homes
Reading is in the old industrial section of Pennsylvania, which runs between Allentown and Harrisburg. The city has nearly 90,000 residents and is among the poorest cities in the U.S. median income for the city is only $28,098. Reading topped the list of cities with more than 65,000 people with the highest proportion of residents living in poverty, according to the New York Times, a fact that will continue to hurt Reading’s housing market for the foreseeable future.
Time on market: 150 days
Change in # of listings: -20.36% (53rd largest)
Median list price: $164,900 (96th highest)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 935 homes
Like many cities in Florida, Gainesville has a large condo market. The Gainesville Sun reported that in August “condo sales were up 13 percent, with 51 sold in August.” That gain was almost certainly due to favorable prices. Condo median prices dropped 13% to $69,400 from $79,500, according to the paper. It may take years for the Gainseville real estate market to recover. It is inland from one of the hardest hit regions in the U.S. — Florida’s Atlantic coast, which includes cities where home prices are down more than the rest of the country.
Time on market: 156 days
Change in # of listings: -37.83% (6th largest)
Median list price: $369,000 (12th highest)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 356 homes
One out of every 356 homes is foreclosed in Naples, Florida — nearly twice the national average. Last week, Republican Representative Kathleen Passidomo filed the Florida Fair Foreclosure Act. The bill is designed, she says, to streamline the foreclosure process. According to real estate attorney Kevin Jursinski, who was quoted on NBC-2, the problem with Naples foreclosures, is that “It’s the fact that we had an issue with so many foreclosures at one time that so swamped the system that it made it hard for the judges and it taxed the system quite a bit.” In the past year, the median home listing price has increased by more than 23%, the third biggest jump in the country.
Time on market: 161 days
Change in # of listings: -14.00% (91st largest)
Median list price: $174,950 (82nd highest)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 207 homes
Myrtle Beach sits in Horry County, an area that has more than triple the number of houses for seasonal use than any other county in North Carolina, according to The Sun News. The areas with the highest vacancy rates are along the ocean, where there are many second homes. According to a Realtor quoted in the paper, foreclosures are more common in the oceanfront, vacation properties because homeowners who cannot afford the mortgage are more likely to give up a second home than their primary residence.
Time on market: 164 days
Change in # of listings: -21.31% (48th largest)
Median list price: $244,250 (36th highest)
Foreclosure rate: 1 in every 4,504 homes
Despite the fairly soft housing market, economists at University of North Carolina Wilmington predict that the local economy is set to recover. Three of Wilmington’s counties are forecast to grow 2.2% next year, ahead of the national forecast of 1.6%. As evidence, the median list price for a home in the city has increased 2.76% in the past year. Wilmington, like Asheville, has an exceptionally low foreclosure rate — just 1 in every 4,504 homes were foreclosed upon in September.