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Obama vs. Romney: Who holds the edge on housing policy?
Source of Title Blog
July 17 2012

We are all in the housing industry - to some extent, our future is dependent on a strong and stable housing market.  I saw an article indicating that Realtors favor Mitt Romney in the upcoming election and I began to wonder what plans each candidate had for restoring our housing market.  So, while I have done some research to see what has been reported on each candidates' position on housing, I am curious to know what you think.  Based solely on their expressed views of the housing market, and leaving general partisan sentiments aside, who do you favor and why?

In searching for their positions on housing, it became evident that much of the information I was finding was not coming from the candidate, but their opponent. I guess you have to take everything you read with a grain of salt, and try to filter out the author's personal feelings and political agenda.

I did find one recent article by Patrick Duffy, a self-proclaimed "political Independent" with "no abiding loyalty to either party."  He wrote The 2012 Presidential Candidates on Housing Policy: Barack Obama versus GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney on housing policies.

Here is his take on Mitt Romney's housing position:

For Mitt Romney, while there is nothing on his campaign website which specifically addresses housing, he seems to rely more on the private market to sort things out.  According to Glenn Hubbard, and economic adviser to Romney, the domination of housing finance by government entities such as the FHA, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is simply not sustainable and must be phased out in favor of private lenders.

At a recent campaign event in Florida, Romney also reportedly mused about getting rid of agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of his plans to simplify the federal government.  As for foreclosures, he prefers to let the free market let prices hit 'rock bottom' as opposed to government policies which would seek to make such declines more orderly.

And, his take on President Obama's position:

President Obama, on the other hand, seems to believe that continued intervention by the federal government - at least in the short to medium run - is essential to providing adequate mortgage capital and even to help underwater borrowers refinance, with restrictions, to today's historically low rates.  He probably doesn't have much choice: given that his previous attempts to bolster the housing market haven't worked at even close to the scale that is necessary - with less than 20 percent of homeowners eligible for loan modifications - if government intervention is to work at all, the policies must be more aggressive.

More recently, Obama seems to have absorbed this criticism, unveiling more than a half dozen plans to encourage refinancing, to reduce the overhang of debts owed by underwater homeowners, and to expand existing aid programs even to borrowers who were speculators or simply took on too much debt.  These latest moves seem as much practical as they are political, since the previous obsession with refusing to help those who made financial mistakes has really acted as a structural break on the economic rebound.

Interestingly, my first stop in my research was Mitt Romney's official Web site.  I wanted to see what his housing policy was all about to better understand why Realtors seemed to prefer him over the President.  I noticed the same thing Duffy pointed out - there was nothing there specifically addressing housing policy.  I really thought that was strange, given the prominence of the "mortgage meltdown" and the "housing crisis" over the past few years.

However, my second destination took me to President Obama's official Web site, and there was nothing there specifically devoted to housing policy issues.

It appears that neither candidate really wants to highlight their plans to improve our housing situation.  It makes you really wonder what we may be in store for... regardless of the outcome of the election.

A specific Google search for "housing" on each candidates' site confirms that it is a hot issue.  On Romney's site, "housing" comes up several times, mostly criticizing the President's handling of the housing crisis.  There is not much about his plans to fix it.  On Obama's site, there are several digs on Romney for thinking "he can fix housing by doing nothing," and several press releases about what he has done to assist struggling homeowners.  Still not much about his plans for the future with regard to housing.

CNN reported that Romney said he "would eliminate or limit for high-earners the mortgage interest deduction for second homes, and likely would do the same for the state income tax deduction and state property tax deduction."   That seems contrary the National Association of Realtors position favoring the mortgage interest deduction.

Romney, as reported by Fox News, also said "As to what to do for the housing industry specifically and are there things that you can do to encourage housing: One is, don't try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom." 

President Obama, on the other hand, has continued to expand foreclosure prevention programs, according to CNNObama has stated that "It is wrong for anyone to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit rock bottom. I refuse to accept that and so do the American people." He also outlined what he called a "Homeowners Bill of Rights," or, "one straightforward set of commonsense rules of the road that every family knows they can count on when they're shopping for a mortgage."

So, there you have it.  In a nutshell, Romney advocates for letting the private market take its course and get government out of the way.  But, can we afford to see what "rock bottom" looks like?

Obama advocates for an expansion of government involvement  to help people stay in their homes.  But, can we afford to continue to spend money on programs that have not produced the improvement we expected?

Let me know what you think - what kind of housing policy do we need and who is the best candidate to deliver it?  Please try to keep liberal vs. conservative rhetoric to a minimum.  Just give you your view on housing policy, and which candidate so far has best convinced you that they have an understanding of our current situation.