President Obama used the State of the Union address to renew a call for Congress to pass legislation that would permit some "responsible" homeowners a chance to refinance at current low rates, savings that could add up to $3,000 a year per family, he said.
"Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates," Obama said. "Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill."
An additional 8 million borrowers would qualify for the federal government's Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, under the proposed legislation. Most significantly, the bill would allow underwater homeowners, those who owe more than their home is worth, to participate.
Obama made a similar plea in August following a New York Times article critical of his handling of housing policy.
Obama also acknowledged the difficulty that many would-be borrowers face in shopping for a home loan. "Even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected," he said.
In a policy paper released by the White House Tuesday night, Obama also proposed a $15 billion program to help communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis rebuild, while creating new construction jobs. This "Project Rebuild" would rehabilitate or demolish more than 100,000 damaged or vacant properties, the administration said.