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Bush signs wide-ranging housing rescue bill

President George W. Bush Wednesday signed a wide-ranging housing rescue bill that will offer up to $300 billion in assistance to troubled mortgage giants and homeowners.

“We look forward to put in place new authorities to improve confidence and stability in markets,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in a statement after the signing. The Federal Housing Administration would begin right away to implement new policies “intended to keep more deserving American families in their homes,” he noted.

The legislation, passed by 72 votes to 13 during a rare weekend session in the Senate, also won approval in the House last week by 272 votes to 152. Under a provision put into the bill, Fannie and Freddie could draw on a temporary line of US Treasury credit or the government could buy shares in them if necessary.

The bill also contains a tax break of as much as $7,500 for first-time home buyers, creates a new regulator to oversee Fannie and Freddie. It will also establish a $300-billion fund under the Federal Housing Administration to help distressed homeowners get more affordable, government-backed mortgages. An estimated 400,000 families could be helped by the program. Both presidential hopeful Barack Obama and John McCain have hailed the Senate’s passage of the housing bill.

The bill was “urgently needed” and represented “an important start to protecting homeowners and restoring stability to our housing market and our economy,” said Obama said in a statement Saturday. McCain said he believes that relief for struggling homeowners is overdue, noting he applauds the passage of this legislation and urges the president to sign it quickly. (Xinhua)