Northern Ohio officials and residents coping with large numbers of mortgage foreclosures said they are pleased President Barack Obama appears to be making the housing crisis a top priority.
The president, speaking Wednesday in Mesa, Ariz., one of the epicenters of the housing crisis, outlined his proposals for helping homeowners. Obama said his proposals would help 7 million to 9 million Americans.
"It's certainly good that we're seeing a more substantive response than we've seen previously," said Zach Schiller, research director for Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal state think tank that has issued many reports on Ohio's housing foreclosures. "The fact that he's out there with a national plan shows this is front and center on the national agenda."
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who lives in the Cleveland area, said Wednesday he's pleased the president is making the housing crisis a national priority.
"Addressing this crisis is not only consistent with our community values, but essential if we are going to stabilize the U.S. housing market and the U.S. economy," Brown said. "I look forward to working with the Obama administration as we stem the tide of massive foreclosures and work to rebuild our nation's middle class."
Pamela Colbert-Brumbaugh, executive director of Erie County United Way, is the chairwoman of the Erie County Save Our Homes Task Force.
She said she expects to learn more about what the impact of Obama's plan will be on local homeowners when the task force meets again March 11.
Action to help homeowners isn't just occurring at the federal level.
State Rep. Dennis Murray Jr., D-Sandusky, has signed on as a co-sponsor for House Bill 3, a measure that would impose a six-month moratorium on housing foreclosures in Ohio.
The measure, authored by state Rep. Mike Foley, a Cuyahoga County Democrat, also would hike the filing fees for filing a mortgage foreclosure and require lawyers to sign a document that they are in contact with the person who has actual control of the property, Murray said. Often courts and local governments don't even know who they are dealing with on a foreclosed property.
The bill has just been introduced and no hearings have been held on it yet, Murray said.
President Barack Obama outlined a four-point plan Wednesday for addressing America's mortgage foreclosure crisis:
* Many homeowners who are current in their mortgages but have seen the value of their homes drop would be offered the chance to refinance their homes at a low, fixed interest rate.
* The federal government will provide money to lenders to help another class of borrowers, homeowners who face foreclosure because they are behind on their payments or are struggling to make them. The federal money will allow lenders to modify first mortgages.
* Government officials will take steps to keep mortgage rates low, such as providing up to $200 billion of capital for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the agencies that guarantee loans.
* The government will impose new rules to help homeowners keep their homes, such as letting bankruptcy judges reduce the value of a mortgage to match the fair market value of the home.