Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at a Press Conference with Majority Leader Harry Reid

Las Vegas, Nevada
Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Thank you so much. It's great to be here in Nevada today along with two champions for working families - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Congresswoman Dina Titus - to discuss our commitment to economic recovery and the steps we're taking together to make recovery a reality.

I'm particularly pleased to announce today that through President Obama's Making Home Affordable plan, we will now be allowing more struggling American homeowners to qualify for refinancing under the Home Affordable Refinance Program.

I'm also pleased to announce today that we will be bringing in HUD reinforcements on the ground here in Nevada - to help Nevadans cope with the housing and economic crisis and give them the support and resources necessary they need for long-term growth and sustainability in their communities.

HUD is at the center of President Obama's response to the economic crisis rooted in a crisis in our housing markets. I appreciate this opportunity to see how our programs are working on the ground in states like Nevada - where unemployment is skyrocketing and the rate of foreclosures is the highest in the nation, with one in every 64 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month of May.

Today, we stand at "ground zero" of the economic and housing crisis.

Nevadans really couldn't ask for better representation in Washington at this critical moment than Majority Leader Reid and Congresswoman Titus.

Congresswoman Titus is just in her first term, but she is no stranger to fighting for the needs of Nevada's working families.

A lifelong educator striving to provide a quality education for our nation's children, Congresswoman Titus is also at the forefront of our national work to transform and modernize our country's infrastructure, serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. And I look forward to working closely with her on our efforts at HUD to integrate our country's housing and transportation systems to strengthen Nevadans' economic security and our small businesses' bottom line.

None of the efforts we've made to jumpstart our country's economy and stabilizing our neighborhoods in the wake of the economic crisis could have been possible without Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

For over 30 years, Leader Reid has given the state of Nevada a powerful voice in the United States Senate. With his leadership and his reputation as a consensus builder, every day Leader Reid delivers meaningful results for Nevadans.

Just last month, he led the fight to protect consumers from credit card abuse.

He has helped improve the last administration's Hope for Homeowners foreclosure prevention program making it more effective and user-friendly for struggling families.

He has helped us crack down on mortgage fraud and predatory lending.

He stood up to protect children from tobacco companies - and grant the FDA authority to regulate tobacco.

And now Majority Leader Reid is working hard to ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.

So, he's been busy.

But nowhere have Leader Reid's leadership and coalition building skills been more evident than in ushering through the Recovery Act, President Obama's plan to immediately jumpstart our economy and stabilize our neighborhoods. We couldn't have asked for a better partner to help us confront this economic storm - the magnitude of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression.

Leader Reid moved heaven and earth to pass this legislation, which is pumping $870 million into Nevada and is expected to create or save 34,000 jobs statewide.

Through the $14 billion that HUD received in the Recovery Act, we are able to take immediate action in communities like Las Vegas.

Our additional $2 billion investment in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, on top of $4 billion that Congress allocated last summer, gives hard-hit areas like the one we toured this morning the tools to purchase and convert foreclosed and abandoned properties into new affordable housing, land banks, or other options that preserve neighborhoods.

Thanks to Sen. Reid's leadership, Nevada already received $24 million in the first round of NSP funds - and stands to receive more funding in our second round of competitive funds made possible through the Recovery Act.

At the same time, Making Home Affordable, the President's housing plan is helping homeowners in jeopardy of foreclosure keep their homes.

In just over four months since the plan was created, it is delivering real relief. Over a million homeowners have received information and participating servicers have already extended offers on nearly a quarter million trial modifications.

Over the next few months, we expect these numbers to grow significantly, and we already have some early signs that the overall housing market is recovering.

And I would add that Making Home Affordable was only possible because Leader Reid fought tooth and nail to convince Congress to release the funds we needed.

It is also Leader Reid - and Congresswoman Titus - who have been fighting hard for our Administration to loosen the equity requirement that would enable more Nevada homeowners to take advantage of Making Home Affordable. I want to express my gratitude for their work on this issue.

I'm proud to announce today that we've listened to you - and we will be expanding the eligibility requirements for homeowners looking to take part in the Home Affordable Refinance Program under Making Home Affordable.

With the expanded eligibility requirements, the Home Affordable Refinance Program will now allow homeowners who owe between 80 and 125 percent of what their home is worth to refinance.

Leader Reid and Congresswoman Titus are right: this expanded eligibility will help thousands of Nevada homeowners who are seriously underwater and have been hurt by the decline in home prices.

It is my hope that these new expanded requirements - and the continued collaboration between the Administration and Congress - will help to curb the foreclosure crisis locally here in Nevada and give hope to thousands more families who were not previously eligible for the program - and face the threat of foreclosure. Together, I know that we can and will continue to improve upon the President's plan.

Everyone has a role to play in the success of Making Home Affordable. We're working with local officials, counselors, the lending industry, and community leaders here in Nevada to provide everyone with the resources and the information they need to help homeowners access these programs.

That's why I'm pleased to announce that HUD is launching a Foreclosure Rapid Response Pilot Program here in Las Vegas to increase our responsiveness to the housing crisis and ensure that we are reaching homeowners in delinquency quickly and effectively, providing them with the most up-to-date information and access to HUD-approved homeownership counseling.

Four states account for nearly half of all the foreclosure starts we're seeing in the country - Nevada's one of them and Las Vegas is among the hardest hit communities in the country - with the rate of foreclosure filings more than seven times the national average.

But with foreclosure experts on the ground here in Las Vegas pounding the pavement and reaching out to homeowners in crisis, I am confident that we can give hope to homeowners struggling to keep their homes.

I'm also proud to announce that our Las Vegas office will welcome two additional staff members who will exclusively work to address a broad range of fair housing issues that impact local residents, including rental discrimination on the basis of race or disability.

The foreclosure crisis disproportionately impacted minority populations across the country, which is why we've requested $37 million for an agency-wide initiative to Combat Mortgage Fraud and Predatory Practices - a third of which will go to curbing discriminations through increases in HUD's fair housing activities.

Especially today, we need to make sure that the rights of every family in Las Vegas are protected when it comes to housing.

Lastly, I want to close by saying that HUD, and the Administration, is committed to ensuring that the kind of behavior by our financial institutions that got us into this situation never happens again.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to stand with the President as he introduced his plan to modernize the rules governing our financial system, a plan that will build a new foundation rooted in protections for consumers.

The President's plan will create a federal regulator-the Consumer Financial Protection Agency - that will have broad authority to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices - practices that have torn apart neighborhoods here in Las Vegas.

It will promote fairer, more efficient and innovative mortgage products for consumers, and improve access to and transparency of financial services in general.

I'm optimistic about what the President's plan means for HUD, for our housing markets in general, and for the confidence we need to get our economy moving again here in Nevada - and across the country.

And I look forward to working with my partners in Congress - like Leader Reid and Congresswoman Titus - to ensure it is passed into law as soon as possible.

And so thank you, Leader Reid and Congresswoman Titus, for fighting so tirelessly for our families, our communities, and our nation.

Together with your leadership, I have no doubt that we can and will make recovery a reality for Nevadans. Thank you.


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