If Syria goes topsy turvy, you can forget comprehensive housing reform
Just when they started talking about housing reform … in steps Syria.
Lawmakers spent Wednesday wrangling over the possibility of a military strike in Syria, a hot topic that sent the stock market plunging last week at just the thought of it.
But discussions, which turned uncertain after Congressional representatives pushed back this week, gave the stock market room to breath as concerns of an immediate military intervention subsided.
While that’s good news for equities and the HW 30, which is up, there’s another underlying message: With Syria in the mix, housing is no longer going to capture lawmakers’ attention in the months of September and October. And what an upset that is, considering the first Treasury white paper on GSE reform came out in 2011, three years ago in February.
And despite progress made in planning and staging reform proposals, it's unknown when a comprehensive housing legislative package will make its way through Congress to address legacy mortgage finance and housing issues. Although analysts with Compass Point Research & Trading do expect the GSE reform debate to begin when Congress returns on Sept. 9, other issues like Rep. Mel Watt's nomination to lead the FHFA will most likely be impacted by Syria, the research firm said.
Not to mention, other financial issues – the U.S. debt ceiling debate and the federal budget – are likely to be punted until more pressing topics can be finalized.
For housing, this could mean aggressive plans for the mortgage finance system and the government-sponsored enterprises may be pushed back once again. In fact, it would be lucky if anything substantial occurred on the housing front this year.
With Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s, R-Texas, housing reform bill, the PATH Act, now on the table, Hensarling told HousingWire he had hoped to address housing issues, including FHA reform, in the fall.
Unfortunately, Congress returned from summer break to a series of new distractions ... Syria being the big one.
So what does the Syria debate mean for the housing economy, or the US economy as a whole?
The answer: more kicking the can down the road on certain issues, and I wouldn’t be surprised if housing is one area that gets set aside until 2014.
Analysts with Compass Point Research & Trading believe the Syria debate will cause lawmakers to punt on the federal budget and the debt ceiling debate.
"We do not believe that the federal government will shutdown, or that the debt ceiling will be breached, but note that the Congressional consideration of military action in Syria increases the likelihood that lawmakers push the impending budget battles to the end of 2013," Compass Point analysts noted.
Budget battles have often included heated suggestions that at some point lawmakers will use the mortgage interest deduction as a gambling chip in budget reduction. However, talks about killing the MI deduction have been on the table for more than a year with no serious movement away from the status quo.
Will it become an issue? Only time will tell, but it seems once again, Congress may be too tied up to deal with housing.