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Feinstein, Villaraigosa push for refinancing help for homeowners

August 22, 2012 |  3:33 pm

Senator Dianne Feinstein

In the latest stop on a multi-state trip to promote federal legislation for struggling homeowners, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for a discussion with local housing advocates Tuesday.

Feinstein and Donovan touted the benefits of legislation that aims to make it easier for more people to refinance their homes, measures they said could put money in the pockets of 120,000 homeowners in Los Angeles and 800,000 homeowners in Southern California.

"If a homeowner uses it, they can save [an average of] $3,000 on the interest payments every year," Feinstein said at a news conference at City Hall.

Southern California homeowners have been among the hardest hit by the recession, and Villaraigosa said more than 68,000 Angelenos have lost their homes.

"While the worst of it is over, many of our residents still need help," Villaraigosa said.

The Obama administration has tried multiple times to reduce the nation's foreclosure rate. About 1 million homeowners have received loan modifications through federal housing initiatives, but officials had hoped 3 to 4 million people could be helped by 2012.

This week the administration began to push harder for legislation aimed at giving banks and homeowners more incentives to refinance distressed homes and expanding eligibility. Obama laid out these measures in the State of the Union address earlier this year, but the legislation has been unpopular with Republicans.

Still, Donovan said the administration has made "real strides" in the fight to help homeowners stay above water, citing an uptick in demand for refinancing. 

"A doubling of refinancing in California? That's real," Donovan said.

The latest package of refinancing legislation faces steep opposition, and with the presidential election approaching, swift passage is unlikely.

Feinstein has sponsored a bill in the package that would extend eligibility for federal refinancing to homeowners who hold loans not serviced by the federal government. She said she believes that the Senate will take up the bill in September.

"I'm very hopeful that they will pass, but in this atmosphere no one can be confident that they'll all pass," Feinstein said.


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-- Frank Shyong at Los Angeles City Hall

Times staff writer Alejandro Lazo contributed to this report.

Photo: Senator Dianne Feinstein in 2005 in Los Angeles. Credit: Los Angeles Times