Next up: a shift away from home ownership?
The Obama administration is expected to turn to overhauling the U.S. housing market by focusing more on rental housing and less on homeownership.
(The Washington Post) -- by Zachary A. Goldfarb --
WASHINGTON — After President Obama signs into law an overhaul of financial regulation at a ceremony Wednesday, his administration will turn to an area at the root of the financial crisis: the U.S. housing market.
Responding to the collapse in home prices and the huge number of foreclosures, the Obama administration is pursuing an overhaul of government policy that could diverge from the emphasis on homeownership embraced by former administrations.
"In previous eras, we haven't seen people question whether homeownership was the right decision. It was just assumed that's where you want to go," said Raphael Bostic, a senior official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). "You're not going to hear us say that."
Bostic, who has published leading scholarship on homeownership, added that owning a home has a lot of value, but "what we've seen in the last four years is that there really is an underside to homeownership."
The administration's narrower view of who should own a home and what the government should do to support them could have major implications for the economy as well as borrowers. Broadly, the administration may wind down some government backing for home loans but increase the focus on affordable rentals.
The shift in approach could mean higher down payments and interest rates on loans, more barriers to lower-income people buying houses and fewer homeowners overall, government officials said. But the change also could pave the way for a more stable housing market, one with fewer taxpayer dollars on the line and less of a risk that homeowners will not be able to pay their mortgages. And it could spell changes throughout the financial markets, as investors choose new places to put their money if the government withdraws incentives for investing in the U.S. mortgage market.
The carnage in the nation's housing market arguably has been the most destructive and enduring element of the recession. Since 2008, the federal government has committed hundreds of billions of dollars, much of it nonrecoverable, to try to keep housing afloat and ensure that borrowers can obtain loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage-finance giants seized by the government in September 2008, and the Federal Housing Administration have been nearly the only sources of backing for new loans.
The Obama administration now is beginning to look for ways to gradually unwind the massive government programs supporting homeownership and restore the traditional role of the private sector. Three months ago, the Treasury Department and HUD released seven broad questions about the future of housing. Comments from the public are due Tuesday, and the administration is required by the financial-overhaul legislation to offer a proposal for housing overhaul by year's end, including restructuring or replacing Fannie and Freddie.
The decision to focus more on rental housing and less on homeownership differs in many ways from the Bush and Clinton administrations. President George W. Bush touted an "ownership society" that sought to increase homeownership rates, specifically for low-income people. President Clinton had a "National Homeownership Strategy" that advocated for a specific homeownership rate...MORE...LINK