Merkley: Senate Bill Will Help Families Stay in Their Homes

Merkley: Senate Bill Will Help Families Stay in Their Homes

Housing Bill Includes Amendments Co-Sponsored by Merkley to Protect Renters and Increase Oversight of Financial Market Programs

Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Senate passed crucial housing legislation to address the mortgage crisis and assist families facing foreclosure.   The bill provides additional resources to prevent future foreclosures and expands access to the HOPE for Homeowners Program.  

“The loss of a home is a devastating blow for any family and the legislation passed today will help those across America who urgently need it,” said Merkley.  “Included in this legislation are tools for the Federal Housing Administration to eliminate bad lenders and help prevent people from falling victim to foreclosure scams. While I am disappointed that the Senate did not approve the lifeline option to give bankruptcy judges the ability to modify the terms of a loan, this bill still provides significant resources to help families remain in their homes.”

The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act will help prevent foreclosures, increase the availability of credit, and make the banking system more stable.

The bill helps homeowners by:

  • Expanding the ability of the Federal Housing Administration and Rural Housing to modify loans
  • Expanding access to the HOPE for Homeowner Program, which helps homeowners avoid foreclosure
  • Creating more enforcement tools for FHA to eliminate bad lenders
  • Authorizing an additional $127.5 million for foreclosure prevention, including funding for foreclosure counseling
  • Increasing borrowing authority for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the National Credit Union Association (NCUA)
  • Authorizing $2.2 billion in additional funds to prevent homelessness

The legislation includes an important amendment authored by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and cosponsored by Senator Merkley that ensures that tenants and families who might otherwise have to vacate their homes  may remain in their homes for the balance of their lease or, if there is no lease, have 90 days to find their next home.   Also included is an amendment from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.), co-sponsored by Merkley, to crack down on fraud and corruption between sellers and buyers of toxic assets.  The amendment authorizes $15 million for the Special Inspector General for the Term Asset Relief Program (TARP) to audit recipients of non-recourse Federal loans through the Public Private Investment Program and the Term Asset Loan Facility to ensure they do not attempt to manipulate those programs to defraud the federal government.

“Renters have been treated extremely unfairly in the past, often tossed out of their homes on short notice despite having a lease,” said Senator Merkley.  “It is simply unfair that these families, who followed the rules and who may have lived in their houses and apartments for years, should be forced to leave their homes by circumstances beyond their control.”

In the coming weeks, Merkley will continue his push to restore fairness for American homeowners by chairing an upcoming hearing on predatory lending practices in the Banking, Housing and Urban Development Committee.