Nightly News | October 24, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Under pressure to fix the economy and help those Americans who've been dragged under water by it, the president today offered a fix for the housing crisis and those Americans who are struggling to stay ahead of the game and keep their homes. The president says he's going to put out pieces of his economic plan instead of one big package because of the gridlock in Washington . The election season backdrop is, of course, unavoidable, and so the president's choice of a backdrop today was notable. NBC 's Kristen Welker traveling with the president in Nevada tonight and starts us off from there. Kristen , good evening.
KRISTEN WELKER reporting: Good evening, Brian . The unemployment rate here in Nevada is above 13 percent, so this state is up for grabs in 2012 . Earlier today President Obama announced help for homeowners here in this Las Vegas neighborhood. President Obama on the road again, accusing a divided Congress of foot dragging.
President BARACK OBAMA: We can't wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job.
WELKER: The president used the power of his office and the optics of a suburban street to sidestep lawmakers, announcing the expansion of a mortgage refinancing program.
Pres. OBAMA: Now, this is a painful burden for middle-class families and it's also a drag on our economy. When a home loses its value, a family loses a big chunk of their wealth.
WELKER: The plan, starting December 1st , specifically targets homeowners with underwater mortgages, who owe more than their homes are currently worth. Those who have mortgages owned or guaranteed by government lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , loans made on or before May 31st , 2009 , and are current on their payments for the past six months with no more than one late payment in the last year. The program would allow homeowners to refinance, no matter how much they owe, eliminate appraisals and many underwriting requirements, and waive many of the expensive up-front fees. Government officials were hesitant to say how many homeowners are eligible. One estimated as many as four million, while independent economists estimated as few as 250,000. The government acknowledges the program will not help the six million Americans already facing or in foreclosure.
Secretary SHAUN DONOVAN (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development): We've got to do more to help the communities that have been hardest hit, that are struggling with vacant and foreclosed properties.
WELKER: Las Vegas resident Dennis Smith is nearing retirement but feels trapped by his mortgage. He thinks he could save as much as $500 a month with this program.
Mr. DENNIS SMITH: It's a very, very stressful situation for my generation who has always looked at the home as a safe investment and only to find out that today it isn't.
WELKER: While some believe the program is a step in the right direction , they also say it doesn't get at the heart of the housing crisis.
Mr. MARK VITNER (Wells Fargo Senior Economist): It doesn't really help people sell their homes. And that's a big part of the problem that we have right now.
WELKER: Now, administration officials here admit this program doesn't get at the far-reaching and complicated housing crisis in its entirety. They say they will be unveiling new economic initiatives in the coming days and weeks.
Brian: Kristen Welker in Las Vegas starting us off tonight, thanks.