Major Housing Bill Approved By Congress: Menendez Praises Bill As Crucial Step Toward Boosting Our Economy And Providing Relief To Homeowners

Major Housing Bill Approved By Congress: Menendez Praises Bill As Crucial Step Toward Boosting Our Economy And Providing Relief To Homeowners

Menendez amendment to strengthen financial counseling was included

Washington -Today, the U.S. Congress approved the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 to provide relief for families who are struggling to keep their homes and to stabilize the market. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, praised the bill while making it clear that it is only a first step toward addressing the housing crisis. The bill includes a major overhaul of our mortgage financing system; it allows qualified homeowners who are struggling to refinance and lock-in more affordable loans, making terms and regulations more transparent and investing millions of dollars to help expand financial counseling programs.

"Each day, 8,000 more Americans file for foreclosure and millions more worry about mounting mortgage payments," said Senator Menendez. "For their sake and for the sake of this economy which badly needs a lift, it was so important that we finally came together to forge this housing bill. Since I said at a Banking Committee hearing well over a year ago that we were facing a tsunami of foreclosures, it has been apparent that we could not sit idly by while American Dreams turn into an un-American nightmares.

"American families are the ones taking the direct hit in this economic downturn. They are receiving foreclosure notices, they are struggling to balance their checkbooks and they are reaching out to Congress for help. This is a strong bill that takes us in the right direction, by boosting our economy while at the same time addressing the root cause of our current economic problems - the housing market.

"I am also pleased that this bill includes a provision that I championed to help promote better financial education among prospective homeowners. The most basic and obvious step we can take to empower families in the midst of the national financial unease and the home foreclosure crisis is to provide them with the information and knowledge to help them make the best decisions about their financial future"

"While I am thrilled that we were able to approve this legislation, I was very disappointed that Republicans blocked an amendment I introduced that would have helped homeless children affected by the foreclosure crisis. The amendment would have provided an infusion of funding for a program to help homeless students stay in their schools and receive educational assistance. I will keep pushing to bring attention to this issue and to get this item approved."

Menendez Financial Counseling Amendment:
The Menendez Financial Counseling amendment will lead to better financial education among prospective homeowners and help identify the most successful methods for delivering counseling services. The amendment simply allows states to use their administrative expenses to improve their financial education and housing counseling services and authorizes pilot projects to help determine the most effective methods for providing housing counseling and financial education.

Provisions in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 include:

• The HOPE for Homeowners Act: Creates an initiative within the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to prevent foreclosures for hundreds of thousands of families at no estimated cost to American taxpayers.

• Affordable Housing Fund: A permanent, new fund that will help create more affordable housing for millions for Americans in communities across the country.

• Assistance for Communities Devastated by Foreclosures: To ensure that communities can mitigate the harmful effects of foreclosures, $3.92 billion in supplemental Community Development Block Grant Funds will be provided to communities hardest hit by foreclosures and delinquencies.

• Foreclosure Counseling for Families in Need: To help families avoid foreclosure, the bill provides $150 million in additional funding for housing counseling.

• Preserving the American Dream for Our Nation's Veterans: This bill contains several provisions to help returning soldiers avoid foreclosure, including lengthening the time a lender must wait before starting foreclosure from three months to nine months after a soldier returns from service.

• GSE Reform: Creates a world class regulator for the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) so that these vital institutions can safely and soundly carry out their important mission of providing our nation's families with affordable housing.

• FHA Modernization: A provision to modernize, streamline and expand the reach of the FHA, allowing families in all areas of the country to access secure and affordable mortgages through FHA.

• Enhancing Mortgage Disclosure: To ensure that consumers know the exact amounts of their mortgage payments, including the maximum possible payment under the terms of the loan and changes in payments associated with adjustable rate mortgages, lenders will be required to provide borrowers with timely and meaningful mortgage disclosures on all home purchase loans, loans that refinance a home, and loans that provide a home equity line of credit.