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Opinion, commentary and analysis on everything that makes the U.S. housing economy tick -- not to mention the ghosts in the machine, too. Written by HW's team of editors and reporters each business day.

For the POTUS, housing doesn't make the cut

What happened to GSE reform, Mr. President?

January 28, 2014

Often, it's what a person doesn't say that matters most.

And while the President's State of the Union address on Tuesday night touched on many expected topics -- it was one expected topic that President Obama chose not to discuss that most caught our attention at HousingWire.

Housing and/or mortgages were mentioned three times in the President's speech. That's it, and in passing all times.

(HousingWire hosted a live blog of the State of the Union address. Click here for an archive.)

First, as a brief notch on the belt in the obligatory listing of the current administration's accomplishments, as is customary at any SOTU speech. Second, in the context of exhorting Congress to renew extended unemployment benefits that expired at the end of 2013. Both mentions came early in the speech, and both were fleeting.

The third mention came later, where the President referred to Congress and asked for legislation that would keep the "dream of homeownership" alive. But that was it. Blink and you'd have missed it.

It's what our President didn't say, however, that offers far more clarity on the administration's stance on housing policy, and on what he was asking Congress to do.

That's because the President was scheduled to make more remarks relevant to housing finance in his speech. The official Fact Sheet put out to reporters in advance of the speech included some specific policy remarks about the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. From that sheet, under the heading of "Securing a Safe and Sound Housing Finance System:"

Ending Fannie and Freddie as We Know Them. The President has made clear that it is time to turn the page on an era of reckless lending and taxpayer bailouts, and build a new housing finance system that will provide secure homeownership for responsible middle class families and those striving to join them. The President is encouraged by the leadership of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Crapo in seeking to forge bipartisan legislation. The President is also appreciative of the bipartisan efforts of other members of the Senate, such as Senator Warner and Senator Corker. As the President outlined in his housing address in August 2013, he stands ready to work with members of Congress in both parties to enact legislation based on four core principles for reform that will (i) put private capital at the center of the housing finance system, (ii) end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s failed business model so taxpayers are never again on the hook for bad loans and bailouts, (iii) ensure widespread access to safe and responsible mortgages like the 30-year fixed rate mortgage, and (iv) support affordability for creditworthy first-time buyers and access to affordable rental housing for middle class families and those aspiring to join their ranks. 

So while the POTUS didn't talk about it, focusing instead on his pet issues of healthcare and income inequality, the administration hasn't entirely lost its focus on the GSEs.

But while housing matters -- as it always should -- it's clear we're a far cry away from 2011, when GSE reform was the front burner issue on the Hill.

Read the full Fact Sheet for the State of Union address here.

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