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Obama Administration Pushes for New Refinance Expansions

The Obama administration made another push Friday to expand refinancing opportunities for homeowners, with HUD Secretary ""Shaun Donovan"":http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/about/principal_staff/secretary_donovan behind the effort to adopt any one of three bills currently in Congress.


Officials told reporters in a teleconference Friday that President ""Barack Obama"":http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/president-obama would appear with a family in Nevada later that day to tout the need for a wider refinance net.

""At a time when we literally have the lowest interest rates ever in this country, what you would expect from these interest rates is a macroeconomic boost,"" Donovan said in the call. ""That will help families save $1,000 to $2,000 a year.""

The HUD secretary outlined three bills before Congress that seek


to streamline the refinance application process, increase servicer competition by reducing barriers, and do away with manual appraisal costs in neighborhoods with fewer home sales than others nationally.

The legislation includes bills sponsored separately by Sens. ""Barbara Boxer"":http://boxer.senate.gov/ (D-California) and ""Robert Menendez"":http://www.menendez.senate.gov/ (D-New Jersey); ""Diane Feinstein"":http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/ (D-California); and ""Jeff Merkley"":http://www.merkley.senate.gov/ (D-Oregon).

The three bills share several differences. The Boxer-Menendez proposal offers to eliminate upfront fees for refinance borrowers and would require mortgage insurers who ""unreasonably fail"" to provide coverage to new refi loans to restitute taxpayers, while the Merkley bill allows borrowers to trade their existing loans for GSE-backed ones at the same rates without closing costs.

The Feinstein bill addresses federal housing agencies by creating a refinancing fund under the Federal Housing Administration and extending guarantee fees for both the agency and the GSEs.

Some speculate whether the new refinance initiatives aim to curry favor with independent voters in a general-election year. During their phone call with reporters, officials cast the three bills as ways to stimulate job creation and save homeowners thousands of dollars in a still-nascent recovery.

The moves come on the heels of a ""to-do list"" that Obama offered Congress. In it, the president called for refinance expansions that echo modifications he proposed for the Home Affordable Refinance Program in his State of the Union address in January.

About Author: Ryan Schuette

Ryan Schuette is a journalist, cartoonist, and social entrepreneur with several years of experience in real-estate news, international reporting, and business management. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where he freelances for DS News and MReport.

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