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White House says housing gains should spur new guv program

Published August 27, 2013 11:12 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The White House is touting the housing recovery with new state-by-state reports highlighting rising prices, fewer foreclosures and more new construction. The goal is to use this good news to pressure Congress into taking actions that President Barack Obama believes will lead to further growth.

The report shows Utah housing prices have risen 9.4 percent since the depths of the economic crisis and new construction permits have increased 72.8 percent.

Government programs have helped nearly 32,000 homeowners get loan modifications, aided 700 in obtaining reductions in their mortgage principal and helped 1,000 get out of a home they couldn't afford with a short sale.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan talked with reporters Monday saying that while the gains are uneven throughout the country, the market has improved from coast-to-coast.

"In Utah, in the last year alone, the number of homes with delinquent mortgages has dropped by 28 percent," he said, citing the Mortgage Bankers Association. "The housing market is coming back."

The report comes a few weeks after Obama outlined his housing agenda in a speech in Phoenix, where he called on Congress to make it cheaper for homeowners to refinance and easier for families to get a first mortgage. He also called for winding down the behemoth government-owned corporations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, turning to more private investors to fuel the housing market.

These proposals will vie for the attention of Congress at a time when the House is expected to take up its version of immigration reform and the House and Senate launch into a debate on government spending, with the budget expiring at the end of September. Republicans have previously expressed skepticism about creating new government programs involving residential real estate.

Donovan argued that Congress can't delay too long, especially on the refinancing proposal, as rates have climbed from historic lows.

mcanham@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mattcanham