Homeownership Should Remain the American Dream, Not a Nightmare (Rep. Paul Gillmor)

America currently enjoys one of the highest homeownership rates in our nation's history. Unfortunately, too many Americans, and far too many Ohioans, were recently put into mortgages that contained a dangerous cocktail of fees and terms which made the loan difficult to repay. Homeownership should remain the American dream, not a nightmare. For several years now, my fellow Ohioans and others have been subjected to crooked lenders, loose underwriting standards, and high foreclosure rates.

The problem of foreclosures is one which I am acutely aware of in my district in Northwest Ohio. Even before the significant loosening of credit standards began affecting the subprime market across the country, Ohio ranked high in foreclosures. As the rest of the country experienced an expanding economy, Ohio's job market and that of Michigan and the rest of the Midwest, was slow to realize the gains and too many people suffered financial difficulties making it difficult to pay their mortgages.

It is likely that when Congress returns in the fall we will evaluate the many foreclosure bills pending before us. I would urge my colleagues to consider the Bachus-Gillmor proposal, H.R. 3012, which would require broker registration and licensing, expand pre-purchase housing counseling, require lenders to evaluate a consumer's ability to repay and restrict the ability of lenders to charge pre-payment penalties leading up to an ARM's reset.

Even after the past few months of turmoil, the vast majority of homeowners in the subprime market are able to handle the complex hybrid mortgage options available.That being said, even the most well-intentioned homebuyer could have difficulties making their payments should they experience a major life change around the same time as their rate adjusts. While Congress must be careful to both protect consumers and keep the market open to prospective homebuyers, I am supportive of legislation which will encourage sound underwriting, promote financial literacy and will help keep people in their homes.