UPDATE 1-In Nevada, Obama pushes for more U.S. housing help

* Money to go to states including Nevada, California

* Obama’s announcement aimed to help Senator Reid
(Adds quotes, details on announcement)

By Jeff Mason

LAS VEGAS, Feb 19 (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama will
use a campaign stop for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on
Friday to announce a new initiative to help support homeowners
in five states hit hardest by the U.S. housing crisis.

A senior administration official said Obama would announce
he is designating $1.5 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief
Program to fund programs at local Housing Finance Agencies in
California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and Michigan.

Those states have seen declines in their housing markets of
20 percent or more from their peaks, the official said.

“We are extremely cognizant of just how difficult the
housing situation remains,” the official told a conference call
with reporters.

“But (we are) very relieved that we are in a dramatically
different place today where we have very significant
stabilization in prices across most of the country.”

Nevada is still struggling from the nation’s housing
troubles, and Obama’s choice to make the announcement there was
no coincidence.

The president is trying to boost the political prospects of
Reid, a Nevada Democrat who is trailing potential Republican
opponents by double digits in opinion polls ahead of November
elections that could change the balance of power in Congress.

Reid has been instrumental in pushing Obama’s main agenda
items to boost the economy, overhaul the U.S. healthcare system
and fight climate change, but Republican critics say he has
neglected his home state while working on the national stage.

Obama’s housing announcement may not be enough to change
Reid’s fortunes or the state’s housing problems.

The administration official acknowledged that $1.5 billion
was a small number compared to the scope of the problem, but
said the administration was encouraged by progress nationwide.

“We’re encouraged by the market futures, the housing price
futures that sort of suggest a very different view of the
future of housing than we had a year ago,” the official said.

The $1.5 billion would be distributed to the state agencies
based on which states were suffering the most and could go to
programs to help unemployed homeowners, for example, or
borrowers who owe more on their houses than they are worth.

“We want this to be a fund that in effect amplifies the
things that are working well and gives license for more
innovation,” the official said, adding the five states had
strong HFAs that could absorb the money well.

The official said the program was different and in addition
to the Treasury Department’s recent $23 billion program for all
50 state Housing Finance Agencies.

Stock Market Basics

(Additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington,
editing by Anthony Boadle)

UPDATE 1-In Nevada, Obama pushes for more U.S. housing help