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Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Mortgage Fraud Press Conference

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Washington, DC
Monday, April 6th, 2009

It's an honor to join my partners from the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Treasury, along with Attorney General Madigan, to give the American people the real facts about all of the foreclosure scams out there. Foreclosure scams are destructive, deceptive, and devastating to families who are fighting to survive. We have families on the edge of foreclosure that are being offered things that are too good to be true, and we at HUD, in coordination with my colleagues here today, will take every measure we can to educate and protect consumers and homeowners, bring these scams to light, and work to prevent con artists from exploiting the housing crisis. There are legitimate people, places, and agencies that American families can turn to when they are facing foreclosure, and I'll detail those today. But I can't stress enough that there is NO FEE to access the President's Making Home Affordable Plan.

[Photo: Group picture]
Left to right: Jon Leibowitz, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission; Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General; Secretary Donovan, Secretary, Housing and Urban Development; Timothy Geithner, Secretary, Department of Treasury; Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of Illinois.

For the homeowners fighting hard to make their mortgage payments and stay in their homes, our housing plan- the Making Home Affordable Plan- will help up to 9 million Americans. Making Home Affordable will work in concert with the President's Recovery Act and support a recovery in the housing market. Our plan is helping families in three ways. First, we are protecting housing opportunities for all Americans by taking action Administration-wide to reduce interest rates, which are now at historic lows. Second, we will assist 4 to 5 million homeowners who can't otherwise take advantage of today's historically low mortgage interest rates. Lastly, we have committed up to $75 billion to help an additional 3 to 4 million homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure modify their unaffordable mortgages into affordable ones. These three planks of our housing plan will keep American families in their homes and prevent the falling home prices that result from nearby foreclosures.

As I said before, with President Obama's plan, a homeowner NEVER has to pay to participate in the program. I encourage anyone trying to modify or refinance their loans to a monthly mortgage payment that is affordable to visit the Making Home Affordable website at makinghomeaffordable.gov. If you wish to obtain counseling assistance from a local HUD-approved counselor, HUD urges you to visit makinghomeaffordable.gov for more information. You can also call the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE for free foreclosure counseling assistance. Once again, participating in President Obama's Making Home Affordable is free of charge and either your servicer or a HUD-approved mortgage counselor can help you take advantage of the plan. All of this information is included on literature we will be distributing nationwide today to all of our housing partners- our HUD field offices and staff, housing authorities, state and local agencies, and non-profit organizations. This and other targeted outreach efforts will help reach out directly to communities hard-hit by foreclosure about the legitimate foreclosure assistance available to them.

We are also working to use technology to enhance the FHA's fraud detection by borrowers, lenders and appraisers. We have already secured the use of anti-fraud technology for our HOPE for Homeowners program and are now looking to expand the use of that tool to all of FHA's single family business, beginning with a pilot application in FY 2009.

These efforts tie in directly to the Obama Administration's multi-agency "Combating Mortgage Fraud Initiative." Under this initiative, HUD and FHA will be playing a central role by investing in bringing anti-fraud systems online. This initiative will also include additional resources for the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud.

The President's 2010 Budget also provides a significant increase in funds to combat mortgage fraud and predatory practices, and includes the single largest increase in funding for fair housing enforcement. These resources will allow HUD to increase enforcement of mortgage and home purchase settlement requirements. Enhanced enforcement will create an environment in which home-buyers will be served with mortgage terms that are more easily understood and reliably honored by lenders.

April is National Fair Housing Month. It's important, in that context, to recognize that the economic and housing crises, including foreclosure scams, have disproportionately impacted minority populations across the country. Unscrupulous financial institutions, brokers, and others have broken their trust as lender, cheating and lying to families fighting to make their way through this crisis. I will renew our commitment at HUD to fair housing enforcement, particularly for enforcement around lending violations that target minority communities. As part of our broader effort to combat abuse and fraud, HUD is using new tools, including the SAFE Act and RESPA, to protect American families. We at HUD, along with our partners here today, will ensure that all Americans, particularly those in areas previously victimized by unscrupulous practices, are protected and will enforce our laws against those that prey upon them.

Those of us onstage today have a clear message for criminals looking to profit from the housing crisis: we are united in rooting out foreclosure scams. We will do everything possible to ensure that families have the tools they need to take advantage of President Obama's Making Home Affordable Plan.

 
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