U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson traveled to Los Angeles as part of the HOPE Now Alliance Initiative trumpeting several White House foreclosure prevention initiatives and announcing the FHA’s recent decision to more than double the lending limit for Los Angeles and Orange County. Hosted by global financial literacy organization Operation HOPE (HOPE), Secretary Jackson was greeted by several dignitaries, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

HOPE Founder and CEO John Hope Bryant, in his dual role as recently appointed vice chairman of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, started the day by giving Secretary Jackson a tour of his organization’s empowerment center and Cyber Café in Baldwin Hills.

“Operation HOPE and HUD have maintained a strong alliance that continues to advance ‘Silver Rights’ for the disenfranchised,” Bryant said. “This movement, focusing on economic parity and wealth building, is the cornerstone of HOPE’s mission to eradicate poverty.”

At the South Los Angeles facility, Secretary Jackson met with housing counseling agencies, community stakeholders and religious leaders about the challenges and opportunities seen in today’s housing market. He shared information about new policies being put into place to address the subprime mortgage crisis, policies that the private financial sector is looking to adopt and homeowners with mortgage payment challenges are eager to employ.

Secretary Jackson later delivered a keynote address at West Angeles Church of God and Christ before an audience of government and community leaders. It was during this speech that he made public the Federal Housing Administration’s decision to increase lending limits. The limit increase in Los Angeles and Orange County is now $720,000 and will remain as such until year end. This new commitment by the federal government will prove an invaluable lifeline for many across economic lines. According to HUD, 30,000 homeowners in California will quickly benefit as will more than 250,000 homeowners nationwide.

“If we can make housing counseling a standard part of home buying, then we can eliminate much of the risk of foreclosure. If we can make the Federal Housing Administration more competitive, then we will open it up to millions of future homeowners, and think of what that will mean in terms of the stability of the housing market and affordability! of loans. If we can maintain industry cooperation, both within the industry and with homeowners, we can change the culture of lending. We must help people keep their homes,” said Jackson.

Secretary Jackson also made clear that he and Treasury Secretary Paulson plan to hold lenders responsible for their public commitments to “make things right” with borrowers.

Several individuals in attendance, including South Bay Assembly member Ted Lieu who appeared in his capacity as California Assembly Banking Committee Chairman, welcomed the Secretary’s visit.

For Mayor Villaraigosa, providing resources for those who feel their options are limited is the most important role government can play. “Los Angeles is an incredible place to live and raise a family, but many Angelenos are struggling to find solutions to the current economic challenges our nation is facing. Operation HOPE and the federal government’s emphasis on educating individuals on money matters is a positive step in the right direction, and I wholeheartedly support these efforts.”