THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Embargoed Until Delivery
Radio Address by the President to the Nation
At 10:06 A.M. EDT
On Saturday, September 1, 2007
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, I met with Housing Secretary Jackson and Treasury Secretary Paulson to discuss the economy and the turbulence in our Nation's mortgage industry. The fundamentals of America's economy remain strong. But the mortgage industry is going through a period of adjustment. And some Americans are worried about the impact this is having on their ability to make their monthly mortgage payments.
I have made it a priority to help American homeowners navigate these financial challenges, so that as many families as possible can stay in their homes. The Federal government will not bail out lenders -- because that would only make a recurrence of the problem more likely. And it is not the government's job to bail out speculators, or those who made the decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford. But I support action at the Federal level that will help more American families keep their homes.
One important way to help homeowners during this time of housing market stress is for Congress to change a key part of the Federal tax code. Under current law, when a lender forgives part of a mortgage to help its customer stay afloat, that amount is treated as taxable income. When your home is losing value and your family is under financial stress, the last thing you need is to be hit with higher taxes. So I'm working with members of both parties to pass a bill that will protect homeowners from having to pay taxes on cancelled mortgage debt.
Another important step we're taking for American homeowners is to modernize the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA is a government agency that provides mortgage insurance to borrowers through a network of private sector lenders. I've sent Congress important legislation that would help more Americans qualify for this insurance by lowering down-payment requirements, increasing loan limits, and providing more flexibility in pricing. By passing this legislation, Congress will allow the FHA to reach more families in need of our assistance, and I ask Congress to act quickly.
At the same time we will launch a new FHA initiative called FHASecure. This initiative will help some people who have good credit but have recently been missing their payments. FHASecure will help these families refinance their mortgages so they can make their payments and keep their homes.
There are other ways we can help. My Administration will launch a new Foreclosure Avoidance Initiative to help homeowners learn more about their refinancing options. I've directed Secretary Paulson and Secretary Jackson to look into innovative ways to bring together homeowners and counseling groups, financial professionals, and the FHA and government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help American families find the mortgage product that works best for them.
Finally, the Federal government is working to make the mortgage industry more transparent and more reliable and more fair, so we can reduce the likelihood that homeowners will face similar problems in the future. Federal banking regulators are strengthening lending standards and making mortgages easier to understand. My Administration is working on new rules to help our consumers compare and shop for loans that meet their budgets and needs. We are committed to pursuing fraud and wrongdoing in the mortgage industry.
Homeownership has always been part of the American Dream. During my Administration we've achieved record homeownership rates. We'll continue to work hard to keep our housing market strong, to ensure that American families can afford the homes they buy, and to help bring the dignity and security that comes with homeownership to more of our citizens.
Thank you for listening.