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President Obama Focuses on Housing During State of the Union Speech

President Barack Obama, in his first State of the Union speech since winning election to a second term, said the federal government needs to streamline rules that are making home purchases and mortgage refinances too hard for creditworthy households. He also urged Congress to tackle tax reform, and he said homes and commercial buildings must be part of the country's effort to improve energy efficiency.

The president also touted his initiative to help rebuild communities hard-hit by the economic slowdown by incubating new businesses and working with public and private partners to rebuild vacant homes.

"Our housing market is healing…but among the country's unfinished business, he said, is the continuing difficulty among households to get mortgage credit.”

"Even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected," the president said. "Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That's holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it."

Obama pointed to legislation pending in Congress to encourage refinancing by underwater and other struggling borrowers who've remained current on their mortgage. The legislation "would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today's rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill."

There are a number of mortgage refinance bills pending in Congress, including the "Responsible Homeowners Refinancing Act "to streamline refis of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans and a bill to let struggling borrowers refinance into FHA loans, among others.

The tax reform agenda the president laid out included no specifics, but on individual taxes, he called for eliminating "tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected." He also called for simplifying taxes for small businesses.

More detail on what he has in mind for tax reform will likely be included in his administration's 2014 budget request, which he's expected to submit to Congress in mid-March.

Obama said his goal for home and commercial property energy efficiency is a 50 percent reduction in energy waste. "The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen." Republished from REALTOR® Magazine