Rep John Lewis wrote another letter to President Obama, this time signed by 28 other Members of Congress requesting he issue an Executive Order to help release the flow of mortgage relief funds to the hardest hit regions in the mortgage foreclosure crisis. The banks are well on their way to recovery but millions of Americans are hanging by a thread, hoping against hope that they will receive some kind of federal mortgage support before it's too late.
In February 2010, during the height of the recession, the Treasury Department established the "Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest-Hit Housing Markets" which promised $7.6 billion to states suffering with the highest unemployment rates and the greatest losses in home values. It represented a way the Administration chose to directly address the debacle Main Street experienced due to recklessness in the financial services industry.
Three years later, banks are well on the way to recovery, while families in America are still in crisis. Less than 10 percent of this funding has been distributed throughout the 18 hardest hit states and the District of Columbia. Last year the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) reviewed the status of HHF and outlined steps to address the issues, but the recommendations have not been implemented.
"A home is the cornerstone of the American dream," said Rep. John Lewis. "It is often the largest investment any American will ever make. Stabilizing the thousands of homeowners who are in crisis is key to our economic viability as a nation. Even in this tight economic climate, the money has already been allocated. The help must come more quickly, otherwise it is just too little too late. I hope the President will help."
The Lewis letter requests the President to issue an "executive order directing the Department of the Treasury to amend their HHF contracts and immediately implement the April 2012 SIGTARP recommendations." This is the second letter Rep. Lewis has sent on this matter. He sent another letter in the fall of last highlighting this issue.
"I thank my dear friend and Colleague, Rep. Lewis for his leadership on this issue. Affordable housing is a priority in my Congressional District in New York City, where all-time high rent in the area presents a severe threat to our local economy. As such, I have fought to ensure that the tenants and prospective residents are provided with proper support needed to finance affordable housing, while strengthening the quality and accessibility of our housing market. As a nation, we must do everything we can to alleviate the pain everyday Americans are feeling due to fear of losing a roof over their heads or inability to afford their rent." Rep. Charles B. Rangel (New York City).
"Homeowners in Southeast Michigan have bit hit hard by the foreclosure crisis during the Great Recession. Continuing to make them wait for assistance is unacceptable. Three years ago they were given a glimpse of hope in the Hardest Hit Fund assistance programs. We must follow through now to do everything in our power to insure these funds are distributed to homeowners anxious for this support. An executive order that allows for greater use of housing counselors, provides additional program flexibility, and implements some of the common-sense reforms outlined in last year's SIGTARP report would give vital assistance to the recovery of the housing market in Michigan." Rep. John Conyers (Michigan)
"Foreclosure is still a crisis for far too many communities, including in my district. We need urgent and bold action to help struggling families retain their homes." Rep. Barbara Lee (Northern California)
"The housing crisis has deeply impacted California, where more than 43,000 homes are estimated to be in the process of foreclosure. It is essential that the funding provided to the Hardest Hit Fund initiative is maximized, so that as many homeowners as possible are able to benefit from HHF foreclosure help. Given the failures evident within the HHF initiative, I urge the President to direct the Department of Treasury to amend HHF contracts to improve the allocation of HHF resources. We must take full advantage of the HHF initiative as we work to help the homeowners whose houses are hanging in the balance." Rep. Loretta Sanchez (Southern California)
"The Hardest Hit Fund was created with the purpose of helping homeowners stay in their homes by avoiding foreclosure, and I thank Congressman Lewis and others for urging the Treasury to carry out an initiative that provides such direct relief." Rep. Albio Sires (New Jersey)
"We are grateful for Congressman Lewis' leadership in working to release the mortgage relief funds owed to D.C. and the states hit hardest by the mortgage crisis. There are thousands of homeowners throughout the nation, including in D.C., who are struggling and in need of this assistance." Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (District of Columbia)