Candidates and Housing
From HW (If the candidates need help, see JtR answers in italics):
President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney should start talking about their housing policy intentions, experts in the industry said.
A group of associations, nonprofits and think tanks made speeches and conducted a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to elevate the housing debate onto the national stage. They challenged political candidates to address the still ailing housing market as the presidential campaign shifts into high gear.
Both presidential candidates have been mostly silent on housing policy aside from Obama’s push to allow more homeowners to refinance and Romney’s comments early on the campaign trail to let the foreclosure process run its course.
Neither campaign, to date, has released substantive housing policy proposals.
“We are entering a critical phase of the presidential campaign,” said David Abromowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. CAP and the National Council of La Raza, among others, sponsored the event.
In conjunction with the event, CAP released a set of seven housing questions it said it sent to each presidential candidate in a “Home for Good” campaign to bring more awareness to the still struggling housing market:
1. What will you do to prevent more unnecessary foreclosures and keep more families from losing their homes?
JtR: Foreclosures are only necessary if borrowers stop making their payments.
2. How will you address the problem of “underwater” mortgages?
JtR: What’s the problem? That people can’t move? We need to get used to having what we have. “Stick and Stay and It Will Pay.”
3. How will you revitalize communities already hit hard by the foreclosure crisis?
JtR: Investors are willing to buy at make-sense prices. Once we hit that floor in hard-hit areas, owner-occupiers should be interested in buying at those prices too. Keep FHA as the low-down alternative, and closely monitor their default reserves.
4. How will you meet the pressing need for affordable rental housing?
JtR: Sell more homes to investors? Encourage lease-options.
5. What will you do to assure that working and middle-class families can achieve homeownership in the future?
JtR: Keep FHA around, and promote lease-option plans to investors. Encourage multi-generational families to live together. Lobby NAR to do something productive.
6. What do you plan to do with the government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and what will take their place in the mortgage market of the future?
Don’t replace them, just quit subsidizing them.
7. How do you plan to protect households from predatory lending and discrimination in the U.S. mortgage market?
JtR: Make it a reality TV show where realtors and mortgage people are seen going to jail.
“We’ve caused extraordinary damage, my industry has,” said Mortgage Bankers Association President David Stevens, who spoke on a panel at the event. “The question is, How do we get hope back into the housing system?”
Stevens said he doesn’t want to create irrational exuberance over recent good news about home sales and house prices, but rather seeks balance in the housing market, including a balance between homeownership and renting.
“Clearly we had too many people promoted into homeownership and it disparaged and destroyed communities,” he said.
Homeownership needs to shift toward well-qualified borrowers with fully documented loans who can prove their ability to repay while balance on the renter side requires addressing a shortage of affordable rentals in key urban markets, Stevens said.