FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) - President Barack Obama called on Congress Wednesday to make it easier for millions of additional homeowners to refinance their mortgages at lower interest rates even if they owe more than their homes are worth.
He conceded that his administration's housing plans have not lived up to their promise.
Calling the housing problem "massive in size and in scope," Obama detailed a proposal he outlined in his State of the Union speech last week, tackling an issue of vital concern in states key to his re-election.
"This housing crisis struck right at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America: our homes," Obama said, speaking at a James Lee Community Center in Falls Church, Virginia.
Obama's proposal would give homeowners with privately held mortgages a shot at record low rates, for an annual savings of about $3,000 for the average borrower.
The program is the latest administration effort to help homeowners in the face of a massive number of foreclosures and plunging house values that have left millions of borrowers owing more than their homes are worth. The administration plan aims to ease the way toward refinancing for borrowers, who despite good credit have been unable to take advantage of lower rates because they are underwater on their loans or because banks fear they will be left taking losses.
The administration has rolled out housing programs before with the hope of helping millions of struggling homeowners. But the programs have fallen short.
"I'll be honest, the programs we've put forward didn't work at the scale we'd hoped," Obama said. "Not as many people have taken advantage of it as we wanted."