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Senators press Obama for swifter REO strategy

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A group of 33 senators sent President Obama a letter Thursday asking his administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency to expedite pending plans for selling and renting previously foreclosed homes held by the government. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and banking committee chair Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) led the letter. "We urge you to analyze, quickly and diligently, the input you have received so that all REO properties under your control may be best managed to produce the most value for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA," the senators wrote. "As part of this analysis, we ask that you also keep in mind the importance of looking for the most effective ways to stabilize neighborhoods and housing values." In August, the White House sent a request for information from the housing industry, looking for new strategies to help these agencies better manage the supply of more than 90,000 REO homes currently on the market. Along with the plan to boost refinancing for underwater borrowers, the Obama administration is looking for local ways to alleviate this influx of inventory. The size of the Fannie Mae foreclosure inventory alone grew to 162,489 in 2010 from 25,125 three years earlier. Even more troubling are the 10.4 million mortgages set to default, according Amherst Securities analyst Laurie Goodman. The senators asked for a deadline to review the RFI submissions and if there are any strategies surfacing at the moment. They also asked what the next step would be. "Foreclosures have taken a heavy toll on too many Americans," the senators wrote. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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