Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Foreclosure Prevention and Housing Counseling Event in Oakland, California

Oakland Marriott City Center, Oakland, California
Monday, September 27, 2010

Thank you, Congresswoman Lee, for that introduction and for your outstanding leadership in Congress.

Congresswoman Lee has long been a champion for Oakland's working families, and indeed for homeowners throughout the country. And with her tenure as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus coming to a close, I'd like to thank her for her service during such an important time for Americans.

I'd also like to recognize and thank Mayor Ron Dellums for his leadership.

As we continue our efforts to help families keep their homes, we couldn't ask for better partners than Barbara Lee, Ron Dellums, and our friends from the counseling and non-profit communities who are here today.

Whenever I speak to families, like those here today, who are fearful of losing their home, I am reminded why the vast network of housing counselors that HUD funds is one of our greatest strengths.

And while we just learned that the recession officially ended more than a year ago, no one here has to tell me or President Obama that the pain continues for far too many families.

That's why, as part of our $87 million housing counseling budget, I am pleased to announce today that we are making available more than $5 million for housing counseling training. This will help to ensure that HUD approved counselors are offering the most current and valuable advice to their clients.

Since April 2009, HUD-approved mortgage counselors have assisted 3.6 million families. And I've seen for myself the difference these extraordinary men and women can make in the lives of families.

Just recently in Atlanta, I met a woman who, with tears in her eyes, told me that her home was in foreclosure -- that despite assurances from her servicer that her home was safe, she was still receiving foreclosure letters.

Hers was the kind of story we've heard about time and again -- families doing everything they can do the right thing--the responsible thing--only to find themselves overwhelmed by what is sometimes a daunting process.

But at HUD's Help for Homeowners event in Atlanta, she was able to sit down with a representative from her bank and a HUD-approved housing counselor. Together, they were able to work out a modification for her at a payment she can afford, and ultimately save her home. I heard similar stories from families here in Oakland today.

And the good news is, more help is on the way. Right now, HUD is working with the Treasury Department on the President's Home Affordable Modification Program. We all know that the program wasn't perfect -- partly because we wanted to get it up and running as quickly as possible.

But we've made changes to make the program more accessible -- working with the banks to process applications, allowing unemployed borrowers to get a minimum of three months of mortgage payment relief and pre-approving borrowers for permanent modifications. And as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform bill, HUD will soon be announcing a $1 billion effort to help unemployed homeowners.

In addition to HAMP, more than a half million families have been assisted through the Federal Housing Administration's loss mitigation options. All told, more than 3.3 million borrowers have received restructured mortgages since April of 2009 -- more than twice the number of foreclosures completed in that time.

And recently, we introduced the new "FHA Short Refinance" program -- an expanded refinancing option for non-FHA borrowers who are underwater and owe more on their home than it is worth.

As Californians know, you can't move if you can't sell your home -- and this Administration recognizes that in some markets, if you can't move, you can't find a job.

Indeed, with efforts like this--that reduce not just interest rates but principal on your mortgage--we believe we can help connect families to jobs and help our economy recover.
And that's really why housing counselors are so essential.

Whether it is helping families stay in their homes or helping them plan their financial future, counselors work to ensure that families have the information they need to make choices that work for them.

Our job in this Administration is to ensure Americans have those choices.

I know this hasn't been an easy time for our communities. But those of us at HUD and across the Obama Administration are committed to helping them recover.

That work begins with working with partners like Congresswoman Lee to ensure families get the help they need.

So, thank you for inviting me.


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