The head of the U.S. central bank says the current housing crisis in the United States demands a "vigorous response."

In a speech to a banking group in Florida, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said foreclosures and late payments on mortgages are likely to continue rising "for a while longer."

He said the current banking industry-backed plan that has seen some lenders lowering interest rates or working out payment plans is a "step in the right direction."

Bernanke says it is in lenders' interest to do more to avoid the huge cost of foreclosures.  He says it is good for communities and the nation's economy to offer more help to more homeowners.

Recent declines in home values have made it difficult for troubled homeowners to solve their problems by refinancing or selling their properties.