Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that affordable housing prices and low interest rates are not enticements for potential buyers lacking down payments and job security.

The central bank chairman testified Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee that household spending grew moderately in the second half of 2011 with higher vehicle sales even as income and wealth remained realtively flat in 2011.

“In the housing sector, affordability has increased dramatically as a result of the decline in house prices and historically low interest rates on conventional mortgages,” Bernanke said. “Unfortunately, many potential buyers lack the down payment and credit history required to qualify for loans; others are reluctant to buy a house now because of concerns about their income, employment prospects and the future path of home prices.”

At the same time, Bernanke said 30% of recent home sales involved foreclosed and distressed real estate, which continues to push home prices downward.

Bernanke said real gross domestic product in the second half of 2011 increased at an annualized rate of 2.25% and data has the Fed forecasting growth in the coming quarters that will either remain relatively flat from late 2011 or grow slightly higher. 

kpanchuk@housingwire.com

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