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Ohio Homeowners Convene to Solve the Housing Crisis

Homeowners and officials in held a town meeting Thursday in Akron, Ohio, to discuss the impact of the housing crisis on their communities.

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The event, called ""#MyHomeMyVote,"" was designed to put the housing crisis and voters' concerns at the forefront of the wave of issues surrounding this year's election season. Attendees used the hash tag to tweet their representatives and other officials with their concerns.

Held at the Akron-Summit Public Library and co-hosted by ""Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People"":http://www.esop-cleveland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=8 (ESOP), ""Asian Services in Action, Inc."":http://www.asiainc-ohio.org/ (ASIA), and ""National Council of La Raza's"":http://www.nclr.org/ national ""Home for Good"" campaign, #MyHomeMyVote featured speakers such as Senator Sherrod Brown and Rep. Betty Sutton, as well as several homeowners and state and local housing professionals.

Mark Seifert, executive director of ESOP, said the government is not focused enough on the state's housing market.

""Underwater mortgages are the latest incarnation of a foreclosure crisis that just won't go away in Ohio,"" Seifert said. ""Yet, the ongoing debate this year has not been focused on underwater

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homeowners and fixing our struggling housing market. We need real solutions and analysis about the housing crisis if we are to move towards rebuilding and stabilizing our communities.""

There are 530,000 Ohio families underwater, approximately 25 percent of the state's homeowners. Some counties are seeing 30-40 percent of homeowners underwater. In addition, the state ranks 11th in the nation for highest foreclosure rates.

Seifert urged policymakers to consider principal reduction as a preventative measure.

""The most urgent policy Congress needs to consider is principal correction-reducing over-sized mortgage balances to meet home values that have declined during the financial crisis and housing bust,"" he said.

Acting FHFA director Edward DeMarco opposes principal reduction programs by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying FHFA believes ""the anticipated benefits do not outweigh the costs and risks.""

A release from ESOP following the meeting called upon DeMarco to ""either step aside or make way for principal correction.""

Homeowners also asked officials about the progress of other steps Congress has taken to ease the crisis, including the ""Responsible Homeowners Refinancing Act of 2012"" currently stalled in the Senate and the ""Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act"" set to expire at the end of the year.

Michael Byun, executive director of ASIA, said government officials would do well to listen to homeowners' concerns.

""It's time for our elected officials and presidential candidates to listen to homeowners' needs and voices,"" Byun said. ""They need to understand that they cannot talk about jobs and the economy without talking about how the foreclosure crisis and underwater mortgages-and a lack of principal correction-is preventing people from pursuing a better quality of life and economic opportunity.""

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