- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2013

President Obama is heading to Arizona on Tuesday to claim some of the credit for a resurgent housing industry and to urge Congress to take more steps to help middle-class homeowners.

The president will give a speech in Phoenix, where he outlined plans four years ago to halt the housing market free-fall. A senior administration official said Mr. Obama will detail “a broad and comprehensive set of ideas” to bolster the housing market, including steps to aid “responsible” families in obtaining a mortgage and a call to gradually phase out government-backed mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Mr. Obama is expected to renew his request for Congress to approve an initiative designed to help more homeowners refinance their properties, to save an average of $3,000. The administration is touting its work with housing regulators that nearly tripled the number of families that received refinancings from 400,000 in 2011 to 1.1 million in 2012.

There’s also $15 billion for hard-hit cities like Detroit in a recycled proposal from the White House to put construction workers back on the job by rehabbing and, in some cases, demolishing blighted vacant homes. Congress hasn’t shown much interest in the proposal.

The president’s speech is another stop in his summer tour focused on the economy as he tries to exert public pressure on House Republican lawmakers to end the “sequester” budget cuts in September and to approve an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit.

Mr. Obama also will make the argument that comprehensive immigration reform “will help lift everyone’s home values across the country,” the administration official told reporters Monday. The House has yet to take up the Senate-passed immigration legislation.

The president also is taking his economic campaign online with plans to answer housing questions from the public during an event hosted by the real estate website Zillow Inc.

The White House said the event, part of his midsummer attempt to get his agenda back on track, is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

People can submit questions to the president via Twitter (using the hashtag #AskObamaHousing), YouTube, Instagram and the video-sharing website Vine, the White House said.

The two-day push is part of Mr. Obama’s broader campaign, in conjunction with grass-roots supporters, to focus on the president’s economic message in a second term that has been sidetracked by the Internal Revenue Service’s improper scrutiny of tea party groups, leaks of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, investigations into the lethal terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and unrest in the Middle East.

In three speeches in the past two weeks, Mr. Obama has called on Congress to embrace his initiatives to fund more education programs and to boost manufacturing. The campaign is aimed at building public support for Mr. Obama’s plans as he prepares for confrontations in September with House Republicans over the federal budget and the nation’s borrowing limit.



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