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ICBA Applauds Congressional Passage of Housing Bill

Washington, D.C. (July 26, 2008)—The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) applauds Congress for passing the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (H.R.3221), a bill that bolsters the troubled housing sector.

"Providing support for housing and the mortgage market and relief to millions of American families who potentially face foreclosure is at the heart of what this measure seeks to achieve," said Cynthia L. Blankenship, ICBA chairman and vice chairman and chief operating officer of Bank of the West, Grapevine, Texas. "ICBA and common-sense community bank lenders believe this legislation will help to alleviate many of the current challenges facing the nation's housing and mortgage markets. We applaud Congress for moving this forward and urge the president to quickly act to sign it into law."

Specifically, several key provisions will greatly benefit homeowners, the troubled housing sector and the broader economy:

  • The "Hope for Homeowners Program" to help qualified borrowers remain in their homes and help ameliorate the negative consequences of foreclosures.
  • A higher Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming loan limit for areas with high housing costs. This would greatly assist homebuyers in communities along the coasts and in larger cities where the median home price is relatively high and would help community banks manage the risk of originating these larger loans.
  • Expanding the Federal Home Loan Banks' support for communities by increasing the number of community banks eligible for advances used to fund small business and agricultural loans.
  • Granting temporary, standby authority to the Treasury to provide debt and equity capital to the housing government sponsored enterprises to boost market confidence.
  • An ICBA-backed first-time homebuyer tax credit of $7,500 recommended as part of ICBA's nine-point economic stimulus proposal presented to Congress in January.
  • Authorization for the Federal Home Loan Banks to guarantee community bank letters of credit issued to enhance the credit rating of local government bonds to help lower local governments' cost of infrastructure construction.
  • Granting an additional standard deduction for real property taxes for homeowners that claim the standard deduction.

ICBA thanks Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), who were instrumental in moving this important legislation forward.