Underwater Homeowners Protesting

Photograph by Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

A real estate agent who specializes in distressed properties walks outside after checking a house in West Palm Beach, Fla.

A new group made up of frustrated homeowners who owe more on their homes than they are currently worth say that they could be a decisive vote in key swing states in November.

“Underwater voters are the single most underestimated swing voting bloc in the country. Sixteen million homeowners are waiting on President Obama and Governor Romney for a plan,” said Tracy Van Slyke, Director of The New Bottom Line, in an e-mailed press release distributed by the group called “Home is Where the Vote Is.”  “Only widespread principal reduction can fix this mess.”

The homeowners will be asking President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney to lay out their plans to stem foreclosures. They’re planning town-hall meetings and protests, including a protest at the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 at the University of Denver, and will be organizing in swing states including Nevada, Georgia, Colorado, Ohio and Florida. They plan their first town hall next week in Orlando, coinciding with the Republican convention there.

The unemployment rate rose last month in every battleground state in the presidential election except Ohio. In Nevada, one of those critical states, one in every 415 homes received a foreclosure filing in Jul,y and the same was true in Ohio for one in every 528 homes, according to RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine, California-based provider of foreclosure data.

Obama didn’t talk about housing at all in Nevada today — even though the state has among the highest foreclosure rates in the country and his campaign singled out housing as the main focus of a radio ad playing there. The ad is one of several airing with tailor-made messages in eight battleground states. In the Nevada, ad the narrator says that Romney and Ryan“would just let home values bottom out” and would do nothing to help service members avoid foreclosure.

More aid to underwater homeowners was part of the president’s $447 billion jobs plan which he proposed in September and was blocked by congressional Republicans. He has since been criticized for not doing more to help underwater borrowers.

During an August 20 impromptu visit to the White House briefing room, Obama said he’s been pressing Congress to pass a refinancing bill that “puts $3,000 into the pockets of the average family who hasn’t yet refinanced their mortgage. That’s a big deal.”

Romney has not laid out a housing plan — in fact housing is not listed among the top 24 issues of concern to his campaign.

In an interview with the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in October he said: “Don’t try and stop the foreclosure process.”

He suggested that the government“`let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.”


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