Obama: 'Too many' homes still underwater

President Obama brought housing to the forefront during his weekly address Saturday, again calling on Congress to act on mortage relief.

Obama noted a recent decline in foreclosure notices, but said lawmakers still need to pass a plan he released in February that would allow millions of homeowners to refinance their mortgages.

“We’re not where we need to be yet,” he said. “Too many homes are still underwater. Too many families are still having a hard time making the mortgage on their piece of the American Dream.”

Two weeks ago, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc., reported that national home-foreclosure filings and repossessions decreased 16 percent from September 2011 – a five-year low.

Last month, construction on new homes in September hit a four-year high -- something else Obama mentioned.

But he stressed the need for Congress to pass legislation allowing “responsible” homeowners to refinance their mortgages to lower rates without having to pay the related fees and closing costs, calling the estimated savings the equivalent to a “$3,000 tax cut.”

Obama did not describe how the plan, estimated to cost as much as $10 billion, would get its funding. But he cited a $25 billion settlement from “the biggest banks” that resulted from a nationwide investigation and “crackdown on the practices that caused this mess,” which is now being used to help homeowners.

Five banks -- Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup and Ally Financial – reached the settlement with the federal government and state attorneys general over foreclosure abuse claims.  

With less than three weeks until the election, Obama urged people to get involved.

“Let’s be honest: Republicans in Congress won’t act on this plan before the election. But maybe they’ll come to their senses afterward if you give them a push,” he said. “Tell them that it’s time for Congress to stop standing in the way of our recovery and to start standing up for you.”