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House bill has benefits for home owners

You know you’ve got a serious problem when the American dream of home ownership is turning into a nightmare for so many families.

Homes are being foreclosed at record rates, and that’s especially true in Ohio. I’m not proud of the fact that Ohio is one of the leaders in the country in its number of foreclosures.

Anything we can do to bring fairness to that system is a step in the right direction. That’s why the very first bill I introduced in Congress dealt with this issue.

I am so pleased that language from my bill was included in H.R. 1852, the “Expanding American Homeownership Act of 2007,” which passed the House this week.

This legislation is designed to revitalize the Federal Housing Administration, a federally insured loan program that for more than 60 years has been a reliable source of affordable fixed rate mortgage loans, especially for first-time homebuyers.

The problem is that this backstop program wasn’t accessible to as many as it could be. Expanding it could provide much-needed relief to our hard-working families.

Included in the larger FHA reauthorization bill is language I introduced in March. I aimed to specifically address the ridiculous inflation of home prices which has contributed to the current housing market crisis.

The bill I drafted requires civil penalties for improperly influencing house appraisals. It would become illegal in the case of an insured mortgage under title II for a 1-to 4-family residence, to compensate, instruct, induce, coerce, or intimidate any person who conducts an appraisal of the property. We’ve all heard stories of lenders leaning on appraisers to hit a certain price on a home so they can push their mortgage or the re-financing through. I believe that’s contributed to many families’ problems; their homes are over-valued, they end up owing too much and now they can’t afford to refinance.

In addition, H.R. 1852 will enable FHA to serve more sub-prime borrowers at affordable rates and terms, recapture borrowers that have turned to predatory loans in recent years, and offer refinancing loan opportunities to borrowers struggling to meet their mortgage payments in the midst of the current turbulent mortgage markets.

In addition, the bill authorizes lower down payments, increases loan limits to make FHA relevant in high cost markets, authorizes more housing counseling, enhances the FHA reverse mortgage program for seniors, and raises FHA multifamily loan limits.

The bill still needs to be considered by the Senate. I hope they do it soon. Affordable housing is crucial to strong families, strong communities and a strong economy.

Charlie Wilson is a U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 6th District.