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Senate Passes Housing Bill, But Support Seen as Problematic

Despite hurdles that experts say will likely prevent it from moving any further, the Senate Thursday passed a bi-partisan housing bill by a wide 84-12 margin. Even the measure's supporters, however, acknowledge that it may be dead on arrival after the White House signaled Wednesday its opposition to the bill, and House Democrats have said they intend to introduce a broader measure that more directly targets troubled homeowners. The Foreclosure Prevention Act proposes a $10 billion increase in tax-free, state-issued bonds to help troubled homeowners refinance, $4 billion in community development block grants to permit states to buy foreclosed properties, and an additional $100 million for housing counseling. The bill would also establish a $7,000 tax credit to buyers of foreclosed homes, and would include FHA modernization provisions designed to further increase the government lending program’s footprint in mortgage banking -- it would also provide $25 billion over three yearsin tax breaks for home builders and other money-losing businesses. The White House had said it opposed the tax credits and extra funding for the community development block grant program, while consumer groups vehemently objected to the removal of a controversial provision included in an earlier version of the bill that would allow judge to modify mortgage debt in Chapter 13 bankruptcies. "We must recognize that the upcoming vote is just the beginning of a process that begins here in the Senate and will continue in the House of Representatives," said Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV)." I hope that when the process is complete, we will have a strengthened bipartisan bill that will do even more to help families, communities and our economy."

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