Good morning and thank you all for participating in this Foreclosure Prevention Workshop. It is an honor to be a part of such a useful and valuable event in our community.
First, I want to thank the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County - and Director Rose Mayes - for the Council's tremendous effort in organizing this workshop. I also appreciate the diligent work done by our regional HUD office, the City of Palm Desert, Mayor Jean M. Benson, and many others. I am also grateful to the UC Riverside - Palm Desert Campus for allowing us to use their facilities for today's event. This is a great opportunity for us to come together to address the situation in the housing market - a very serious problem facing our region—and our entire country.
Today's large crowd shows just how serious this issue has become for so many individuals. Whether you—or a friend or family member—are buying a new home, refinancing your home, trying to avoid foreclosure, or simply at a loss about what to do about your situation, I hope that you will all benefit from the resources and counseling provided through this workshop. Almost everyone in our community—and in communities across the country—has been impacted in some way by the current problems facing the housing market and the increasing number of foreclosures.
Our State of California is being hit particularly hard by this crisis, with foreclosure filings up across the entire state—and especially here in the 45th District. Riverside County has the fourth largest number of foreclosures in the nation, and a recent report indicated that home prices are dropping faster in Riverside and San Bernardino counties than anywhere else in Southern California.
This is a very difficult and concerning situation, and I believe it is critical that families in our community have access to the tools they need to deal with the financial hardships they are facing.
We've experienced such significant population growth in the last decade, with more projected. After all, the report recently released by the Public Policy Institute of California estimates that by 2015, the Coachella Valley will grow by nearly 185,000 people. We need to make sure that the financial tools are there to keep people here as we raise families and stabilize our local economy.
As most of you know, there are a lot of proposals out there to respond to the current economic situation in our country. Many aspects of our financial system are under scrutiny. In Washington, D.C., we are holding hearings and listening to testimony on everything from broad reforms of our financial regulatory structure to providing tax incentives that would encourage homebuyers.
I have supported and helped pass into law such legislation as sending out stimulus checks to help boost our economy; temporarily raising the cap on loans backed by the FHA and our GSE's, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and abolishing taxes due on debt forgiven by lenders. These efforts have helped—and will continue to help—individuals and families in this District.
I believe we need to continue to work on all levels—federal, state and local—to address these very serious economic times, and I am very proud of what we are doing here today. I know that the Federal Government can often be behind the curve on some of these issues. This workshop is something that goes beyond legislation. It offers homeowners answers right now on such issues as their mortgage, refinancing their homes and avoiding fraud. Waiting around for potential legislative items to move through Washington isn't something that many people can afford.
The experts here today and some of the different discussion groups can really help to answer immediate questions and show results. No matter what questions or needs have brought you here today, being informed and taking proactive steps can make all the difference. I hope that through this event, you will be better equipped with the tools you need to lift yourselves and your families through some trying economic times.
Through the help of many experts here today, counselors and other resources, I hope that you will be able to explore all the options that are available to you—as homeowners or as future homeowners. I also encourage you to share the information you learn today with friends or family members who may be facing some difficult times of their own.
Again, thank you for being here today.