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Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Las Vegas Press Conference on President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Las Vegas, NV
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thank you, Michele, for that kind introduction.  And thanks to Mayors Goodman, Buck, and Hafen for their leadership. 

Last night, President Obama laid out his blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -- an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.

This is a make or break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it. What’s at stake is the survival of the basic American promise -- the idea that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement.

As the President said, the defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive -- how we can build a nation where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.

Nowhere is that challenge clearer than in housing, as Nevada’s families know all too well.  Indeed, Las Vegas was “Ground Zero” for the housing crisis, with foreclosures devastating both families and neighborhoods alike.

Too often in the years leading up to the crisis, mortgages were sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them.  Banks made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. 

And we all know what happened next, as the country lost more than 8 million jobs and our economy and the world plunged into a crisis from which we are still recovering.

But the Obama Administration has pushed back hard against the crisis.  That’s why we’ve worked to give responsible families the help they need to keep their homes.

Right here at Consumer Credit Counseling Service, with tools provided by the Administration, Michele Johnson has helped nearly 90,000 families keep their homes over the last 3 years -- and helped another 250 families become first-time homebuyers.

As a result of these kinds of efforts, foreclosure notices nationally are down 45 percent since early 2009, and more than 5.5 million families have received mortgage modifications with affordable monthly payments.   

Still, there are still millions of Americans who have worked hard and acted responsibly, made their mortgage payments on time -- who, because their homes are worth less than they owe on their mortgage, can’t take advantage of today’s historically low interest rates.

That’s why in September, President Obama came right here to Las Vegas to announce critical changes that would help more families refinance.

Thanks to this work, already, tens of thousands of underwater borrowers have refinanced at lower rates across the country. 

But we need to do more -- both for responsible families who need help, and for our economy.  Indeed, a stronger housing market will help speed growth and jumpstart our economic recovery.

That’s why last night, President Obama called on Congress to pass legislation that will give all borrowers who are current on their mortgages the opportunity to refinance.

This proposal, the details of which we will be unveiling in the coming days, helps families who have done the right thing -- who are current on their payments and haven’t walked away from their responsibilities.

Through no fault of their own, these families have watched their property values decline.  In fact, we’ve seen evidence that the value of your home declines by $5,000-to-$10,000 the minute a foreclosure sign goes up on your block. 

 This proposal will require Congress to act -- and given that its cost is fully offset by the President’s Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee, I hope Congress does act. 

Indeed, at the same time we are taking action to help individual homeowners, we also need to make sure that the people responsible for this crisis are held to account and we see some justice for those who were hurt.

That’s why the President also spoke last night about a full investigation of the illegal practices in the making and selling of mortgages.

Thanks to action taken by this President, the economy is growing again.  The economy has added a total of 3.2 million private sector jobs over the last 22 months.

That’s progress.  But to keep making progress, we need to do more. 

We cannot go back to an economy based on outsourcing, bad debt, phony financial profits, and an American Dream built on a house of cards.

We need to keep moving forward and rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.

We need an economy that’s built to last.  That’s the vision the President has for the country, and the vision every hard-working family in Nevada wants for their community.

And that’s the vision we’re going to realize here in Las Vegas.  Thank you, and I’d love to take some questions.