(CNN) – President Barack Obama described America’s housing market as “healing” on Saturday in his weekly address, touting his own record on the subject and encouraging Congress to act on more of his proposals, including approving his nominee for a key housing post.
“From the day I took office, I’ve made it a priority to help responsible homeowners and prevent the kind of recklessness that helped cause this crisis in the first place,” Obama said. “My housing plan has already helped more than two million people refinance their mortgages, and they’re saving an average of $3,000 per year.”
The Obama administration has tried to help underwater borrowers - those who owe more than their homes are worth - through the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP.
But that initiative has been limited in its effectiveness over the past few years, securing principal reductions for less than 120,000 borrowers as of the end of 2012, and it limits such reductions to mortgages that aren't controlled by mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are overseen by the government.
Obama conceded there was more work to be done Saturday, saying, “We’ve got more responsible homeowners to help – folks who have never missed a mortgage payment, but aren’t allowed to refinance; working families who have done everything right, but still owe more on their homes than they’re worth.”
He said two million Americans have been able to refinance their mortgages but that more homeowners could still be able to save money.
“I’ve called on Congress to give every responsible homeowner the chance to refinance, and with it, the opportunity to save $3,000 a year. That’s like a $3,000 tax cut. And if you’re one of the millions of Americans who could take advantage of that, you should ask your representative in Congress why they won’t act on it,” he said.
And he encouraged senators to approve Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina, his nominee to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Freddie and Fannie.
Watt is “the right person for the job,” Obama said.
Some on the left have questioned Watt's independence in view of the substantial campaign donations he's received over the years from banks and other financial institutions.
But he has also received large contributions from unions, and his nomination had drawn support from some progressives.
Watt's confirmation process may still be contentious.
Republican senators Bob Corker and Mike Crapo expressed concern about his nomination, calling on the Obama administration to articulate a plan for reducing government involvement in the housing market going forward.
CNNMoney’s James O’Toole and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.