May 11th, 2012
06:12 PM ET
RENO, Nevada (CNN) –- It’s not every day the President of the United States shows up on your doorstep but that was the case for Paul and Val Keller at their Reno, Nevada, home on Friday.
The reason for the president's visit was to highlight problems with mortgage refinancing and to urge Congress to do more to help homeowners. Many families, like the Kellers, are struggling to refinance their home because they owe more than their home is worth. The Kellers purchased their $168,000 home fourteen years ago, yet now it is only worth $100,000.
In October of 2011, Val Keller heard the president announce new measures aimed at helping underwater homeowners and decided to call her bank and ask about the regulations. Their mortgage was refinanced within 90 days.
“The pool of folks who can refinance right now, when their homes are underwater, is still too small,” the president said. “But in order to expand that opportunity - we want to include everybody; people whose mortgages aren't government-backed. And in order to do that, we've got to have Congress move.”
Home refinancing is part of the Obama administration’s “To-do list,” initiatives the president wants to see pushed through Congress. He urged Americans to press their member of Congress to pass legislation to cut through the red tape in the mortgage market.
“Nag them until they actually get it done. We need to keep moving this country forward. Send them an email. Tweet them. Write them a letter if you’re old-fashioned like me,” Obama said.
The White House says that since October, applications for refinancing have increased by 50% nationwide and 230% in Nevada. The housing crisis has hit the state particularly hard. Nevada led the nation in the number of foreclosures for several years, until Arizona recently took the top spot.
But critics say the president's visit is nothing more than a political stunt.
“While that's a neat symbol for the Kellers to have the president visit their house, when you look at success of those policies regarding what's going on with foreclosure in Nevada and down on the ground that sort of stuff, we are still in critical condition with housing in Nevada,” said Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents the Reno area.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s campaign organized a conference call with Amodei and Nevada Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki to discuss the president’s visit to Reno with reporters.
“The president's policies are not doing things to help our economy here and I appreciate the president coming to town and sitting down in the living room with the Kellers but it's not going to solve our problems,” Krolicki said.