Obama's housing speech triggers applause in unusual places

By , Staff writer

In a tribute either to his rhetorical skill or the crowd’s enthusiasm for a popular president, Barack Obama’s speech on solving the home mortgage crisis won audience applause in unusual places.

Speaking at Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona, the crowd cheered lustily for financial reform provisions that – if delivered by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner – clearly would not have caused spectators to break into applause.

Let's hear it for those new regulations

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But there was spirited clapping when Obama, against a backdrop of American flags, announced that lenders wanting financial assistance would have to comply with new guidelines for the mortgage industry that “will be in place two weeks from today.”

Another unlikely applause line was Obama’s stern warning that, “all of us must learn to live within our means again and not assume housing prices are going to go up 20-30-40 percent.”

A roll out where help is needed

After signing an economic stimulus bill in Denver on Tuesday, the President spent the night in Arizona. That let him unveil his housing plan – designed to keep as many as 9 million Americans from losing their homes to foreclosure – in the Phoenix area which has been hard hit by the housing crunch.

The $75 billion administration plan targets borrowers who owe more on their home mortgages than their house is currently worth as well as borrowers on the verge of foreclosure.

The housing industry’s need for aid was clear in statistics released Wednesday. The Commerce Department said construction of new homes dropped 16.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 466,000 units. That is the slowest pace in half a century.

The President prepared for the talk by using a treadmill while wearing headphones. The gym was at the Intercontinental Montelucia Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, Arizona where he stayed overnight. According to a media pool report, after he left the gym, the President walked through the grounds, greeting people who waved to him from hotel room balconies.

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