In his address this week, President Obama recalls how four years ago this month the financial crisis that was largely caused by irresponsibility in the housing market almost destroyed the US economy. He points out that although four years later the housing market is slowly improving, still more needs to be done. He outlines steps that have been taken to help the housing market, including his proposal to give responsible homeowners a chance to save thousands of dollars every year by refinancing their mortgages -- a plan that has been blocked by Republican lawmakers.
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Hello, everybody. Four years ago this month, a crisis that started out on Wall Street almost brought down our entire economy. The nation's biggest banks were days away from failing. The stock market – and millions of American retirement accounts – were in free-fall. Credit froze. Lending stopped. And businesses large and small didn't even know if they'd be able to make payroll. It was a moment the likes of which few Americans had ever seen.
Today, we know the biggest cause of that crisis was reckless behavior in the housing market.
Millions of Americans who did the right and responsible thing – who shopped for a home, secured a mortgage they could afford, and made their payments on time – were badly hurt by the irresponsible actions of others. By lenders who sold loans to families who couldn't afford them – and buyers who knew they couldn't afford them. By speculators who were looking to make a quick buck. And by banks that packaged and sold those risky mortgages for phony profits.
When the party stopped, and the housing bubble burst, it pushed our entire economy into a historic recession – and left middle-class families holding the bag.
Four years later, the housing market is healing. Home sales and construction are up. Prices are beginning to rise. And more than a million families who began this year owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, are now back above water.
We're moving in the right direction. But we're not there yet. There are still millions of Americans who are struggling with their mortgages, even at a time of historically low rates.
Now, I know there are some who think that the only option for homeowners is to just stand by and hope that the market has hit bottom. I don't agree with that.
That's why my Administration teamed up with state attorneys general to investigate the terrible way many homeowners were treated, and secured a settlement from the nation's biggest banks – banks that were bailed out with taxpayer dollars – to help families stay in their homes.
And that's why we announced new steps to help responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages. Already, hundreds of thousands of Americans who were stuck in high-interest loans have been able to take advantage of lower rates and save thousands of dollars every year.
That's not only good for those families; it's also good for our economy. When folks are spending less on mortgage payments, they're spending more at local businesses. And when those businesses have more customers, they start hiring more workers.
But we can do even more if Congress is willing to do their part.
Back in February I sent Congress a plan to give every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgages by refinancing at lower rates. It's a plan that has the support of independent, nonpartisan economists and leaders across the housing industry. But Republicans in Congress worked to keep it from even getting to a vote. And here we are – seven months later – still waiting on Congress to act.
This makes no sense. Last week, mortgage rates were at historic lows. But instead of helping more and more hardworking families take advantage of those rates, Congress was away on break. Instead of worrying about you, they'd already gone home to worry about their campaigns.
The truth is, it's going to take a while for our housing market to fully recover. But it's going to take a lot more time – and cause a lot more hurt – if Congress keeps standing in the way. If you agree with me, I hope you'll make your voices heard. Call your Representative. Send them an email. Show up at their town hall and tell them that when Congress comes back to Washington, they better come back ready to work. All of you are doing everything you can to meet your responsibilities. It's time Congress did the same. Thanks and have a great weekend.