One of my top priorities in Congress is to ensure that every Rhode Islander has access to safe and affordable housing. This is especially important during these difficult economic times in Rhode Island, where we have experienced an exceptionally high number of foreclosures. To begin addressing these challenges, I supported legislation to increase housing stability and provide the resources that homeowners and lenders need to guide them through this crisis. However, further action must be taken to help our country’s homeowners. Our economy cannot fully recover without a strong housing market.
I am proud to have reintroduced the Rebuilding Equity Act, legislation designed to lower refinancing costs, boost the housing market and enable homeowners to refinance their homes at the low interest rates currently available. The Rebuilding Equity Act creates an incentive for underwater borrowers who are refinancing under the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to choose a loan term of twenty years or less, in exchange for the Government-Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) paying $1,000 of their closing costs. The bill will directly assist struggling homeowners by allowing them to build equity in their homes at no extra cost to the government.
Due to our high foreclosure rate, Rhode Island was selected to receive federal funding to establish the “Hardest Hit Fund-Rhode Island,” which provided loan modification assistance, temporary homeowner assistance, and helped with moving costs for those that could not stay in their homes. You can learn more about the successes of the program at www.hhfri.org. I encourage you to visit my foreclosure resources page if you are at risk of foreclosure or have questions about available resources and assistance. You may also visit www.makinghomeaffordable.gov to learn more about President Obama’s plan to help homeowners.
In 2012, a settlement was reached between state attorneys general, including RI Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, and five of our country’s biggest mortgage lenders to provide relief to struggling homeowners. Rhode Island will receive $172 million of the $25 billion deal to assist struggling homeowners reduce their mortgage payments and provide foreclosed-upon homeowners with a lump sum payment. For more information on this settlement and to see if it impacts you, you may visit www.riag.ri.gov/mortgagesettlement.
I have consistently advocated for increased program funding that supports affordable housing for Rhode Islanders. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. The Section 8 low-income housing assistance program was initially designed in 1974 to provide project-based assistance to public housing authorities, and I will work to ensure adequate funding for Section 8 programs in the future. I will also continue to support funding opportunities for Sections 202 and 811 supportive housing for the elderly and individuals with disabilities.
Preservation of America’s most important historic properties enriches and distinguishes our state. During these times of economic challenge, historic preservation can also revitalize urban areas and facilitate green building practices—at a lower cost than new construction projects. For example, with funding from historic rehabilitation tax credits, historic buildings can be renovated to serve as energy-efficient, affordable housing units.