Obama's refinancing plan sounds good, but will it work?

February 01, 2012

President Obama is putting more pressure on Congress to consider his home-mortgage refinancing proposal. In Arizona, housing experts are mixed on whether it would actually work.

PETER O'DOWD: The plan would give several million people the chance to refinance their mortgages at favorable interest rates, even if that mortgage is underwater. The president says it could save the average homeowner up to $3,000 a year. The government would tax large banks to pay for it. Seems like a great idea in Arizona, right, where nearly half of all mortgages are underwater. But housing experts like Patricia Garcia Duarte haven’t totally warmed up to the idea.

PATRICIA GARCIA DUARTE: It’s not the solution for everyone, but we have to try new things.

O'DOWD: Garcia Duarte heads Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix. She says more government intervention is needed, because lenders still aren’t doing enough on their own. But a refinancing plan won’t work for everybody.

GARCIA DUARTE: That’s the challenge with this crisis. Everyone’s situation is different.

O'DOWD: For one thing, refinancing comes along with fees that might not be worth the savings you get on a new loan. Molly Castelazo is the president of Homeowner 101, a group that helps people with distressed mortgages. She says homeowners should ask themselves: Am I better off with a loan modification, a short sale or refinancing?

MOLLY CASTELAZO: If I refinance today, how will that impact my available decisions tomorrow and next year and in five years. If doing a refinance is your way to kick the can down the road, you might be better off making a different decision.

O'DOWD: The president’s plan still faces an uphill battle in Congress. Critics have questioned the effectiveness of the Administration’s previous mortgage assistance programs, which have reached just a fraction of those eligible. For KJZZ, I’m Peter O’Dowd.

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