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Mr. HELLER. Madam President, last September I had the honor of coming to the floor to give my maiden speech to my fellow Nevadans and to the American people. In that speech, I quoted a great Nevadan, Mark Twain, who wrote: ``You are a coward when you even seem to have backed down from a thing you openly set out to do.'' I have always said that I ran for office to make a difference, and since my first day here I have set out to provide solutions to fix our current housing problems.
Nevada is the epicenter of our Nation's housing crash. Home prices continue to decline in Nevada. In February of 2006 the average home value was $309,000. Today that has dropped to $120,000. Let me give my colleagues another fact: 5 years is how long Nevada has led the country in foreclosures.
The people of Nevada have suffered far too long because of the recklessness of Wall Street that caused this crash. Many Nevadans are struggling to pay for mortgages or have their homes in foreclosure as a result of the poor job market and the economic downturn. Because of the high rates of foreclosure devastating Nevadans, many are being forced to move, to find a new place to live.
Washington must provide solutions that help those who have been hit the hardest by this tough economy. I have worked on several solutions that I believe will provide some relief for many of those who are struggling.
In February I introduced the Keeping Families in their Home Act or the Home Act. This legislation would allow banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to offer long-term leases for foreclosed homes. By doing so, it gives families the opportunity to stay in their homes while also easing the pressure that foreclosures put on home values.
The next month I joined Senator Stabenow to introduce the bipartisan Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which would ensure that homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are now worth would not be hit with an additional income tax if a part of their mortgage loan is forgiven. The current mortgage relief act expires at the end of this year, and this bill extends this critical safety net for underwater homeowners through 2015.
Today I am proud to announce the introduction of the SOLD Act. Home buyers, sellers, and real estate agents have long observed that banks have been slow to approve home short sales. Current delays in approving short sales are a major challenge to consumers and to realtors. These delays can cause canceled contracts and homeowners being forced into foreclosure. Those short sales are seen as a far better outcome than foreclosure, and finding a way to improve and make this process more efficient has been very difficult.
My legislation, the SOLD Act, would require that mortgage servicers respond to a short sale request within 30 days and make a final decision within 60 days of receiving the purchase offer.
By placing a shot clock on these decisions, it will reduce the amount of time it takes to sell property, improve the likelihood that the transaction will close, and reduce the number of foreclosures in Nevada and across this country.
Stability in the housing market is critical for long-term economic growth. As Nevada continues to lead the Nation in unemployment, it is more important now than ever for Washington to provide solutions and address our Nation's biggest problems. Getting Americans back to work and helping families who find themselves in tough economic times should be a priority of every Member of Congress.
I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting the SOLD Act and help those who have fallen on tough times.
Madam President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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