Obama takes housing message to Reno

WASHINGTON - In October, President Barack Obama dropped in on an east Las Vegas neighborhood, met with the Bonilla family and spotlighted the government mortgage assistance program that helped them buy their home.

On Friday, Obama will take the same message north.

During a midday stopover in Reno, the president plans to meet with a local family, White House officials said Wednesday. He will highlight a proposal to help families refinance their homes, one of the items on a "to do" list of bills he wants Congress to pass this year.

It will mark Obama's second trip to Reno since he was elected and his ninth overall into Nevada, a swing state in the fall elections.

The Reno visit comes as the final stop of a whirlwind trip that will take him to Seattle today for several fundraisers and then to Los Angeles for a star-studded fundraiser at the home of actor George Clooney that is expected to raise a record $12 million.

But it will be back to business for the president when Air Force One touches down at the Reno airport the next day for what the White House described as an official visit.

Obama will "deliver remarks that will highlight the next initiative on the 'To Do List' which calls on Congress to cut the red tape so that responsible homeowners across the country who have been paying their mortgage on time can feel secure in their home and refinance at today's lower rates," a White House statement said.

The refinancing plan was unveiled in February but has not gained traction in Congress. It would allow people with good credit to refinance their homes at low rates even if their properties are worth less than their mortgages.

When he unveiled the proposal at an event in Falls Church, Va., Obama said it could save an eligible homeowner about $3,000 a year.

"What this plan will do is help millions of responsible homeowners who make their payments on time but find themselves trapped under falling home values or wrapped in red tape," he said. "If you're ineligible for refinancing just because you're underwater on your mortgage, through no fault of your own, this plan changes that."

House Republicans have showed little interest in advancing the Obama plan.

"How many times have we done this?" House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said when the plan was announced. "We've done this at least four times where there's some new government program to help homeowners who have trouble with their mortgages. None of these programs have worked. And I don't know why anyone would think that this next idea is going to work."

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.