On January 24, 2012 President Obama delivered his State of The Union Address in which he expressed his desire to launch a broad expansion of home refinance policy that would benefit all responsible underwater home owners. A few days later The White House issued this press release outlining the plan. The White House created the following web site to inform the public and help gain support: http://www.whitehouse.gov/refi. The effort has been referred to in social media circles as #myrefi. Those in the housing industry refer to the initiative as HARP 3.0. At the President’s beckoning legislators in both the House and Senate drafted Bills to make HARP 3.0 a reality. Those Bills are as follows:
- S.2072 – Helping Homeowners Refinance Act
- H.R.6428 – Responsible Homeowner Refinancing Act of 2012
- S.3047 – Expanding Refinancing Opportunities Act of 2012
- S.3085 – Responsible Homeowners Refinancing Act of 2012
- S.2909 – Rebuilding Equity Act of 2012
- H.R.6467 – Rebuilding Equity Act of 2012
It is now a year later and we are no closer to HARP 3.0 becoming a reality than the day The President unveiled his plan. So what happened? First off, none of the proposed Bills made it out of committee for a vote on the floor of the chamber they originated in. Most were sent to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs where they languished. All of these Bills officially died when the 112th Congress ended on January 3, 2013. Secondly, The newly sworn in 113th Congress has not yet taken up any Bills to address home refinancing. The partisan divide in Congress has been too much to overcome. Meanwhile, other issues such as deficit reduction and gun control have trumped the priority of helping the more than 12 million underwater home owners. Despite the lack of new legislation, Congress is not needed for some types of HARP expansion. Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Edward DeMarco has power to make changes almost unilaterally for mortgages owned by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. There have been some rumblings that President Obama is going to fire DeMarco and put in a new guy more receptive to expanding HARP and HAMP. However that would set up a fight with Republicans who seem to like DeMarco. I am sure President Obama does not want to pick this fight now with Republicans while the debt ceiling and sequestration tax cuts are still being negotiated. Underwater home owners need to mobilize on the refinance issue in order to make HARP expansion a priority once again. That is why I am circulating this “We the People” petition: Make a formal request to the FHFA to eliminate the securitization cutoff date for HARP eligibility and allow re-HARPing. If we can get 25,000 people to sign the petition it will elicit a response from the President. In doing so it will help to kickstart the discussions in Washington to expand the Home Affordable Refinance Program. Maybe you are a cynic that doesn’t believe these types of petition can make a difference, but keep in mind that this is already a policy that The White House Administration supports. A little nudge to remind them that we are still Underwater and are running out of patience can only help.