I read with a certain degree of astonishment (not really) in a recent HousingWire update that the Obama Administration announced plans to “jump-start” the housing market.
According to HW reporter Ben Lane, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said while at the Making Home Affordable five-year anniversary summit, that the lack of private capital in the market, the dearth of affordable rental options and the abundance of Americans who are facing foreclosure or are underwater on their mortgages has motivated the Administration to offer the following three initiatives:
1. The extension of the Making Homes Affordable program until “at least December 31, 2016”
2. A plan to expand access to credit by working to revive the private-label mortgage-backed securities market
3. A new partnership between the Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to build new, affordable rental housing
While the Obama Administration did not cause the housing collapse of 2007– 2008, many in this country believe that its initiatives, such as the Making Homes Affordable program, including HAMP and HAFA, as well as foreclosure moratoria, actually exacerbated the situation rather than helping to resolve it.
Many of the most credible housing market experts agree that these efforts, while perhaps laudable in their intent, prolonged the recession and helped to keep our economy from truly recovering. Without the benefit of having the private sector empowered to find solutions to the housing crisis, we instead saw the heavy hand of government interfere where they have little experience or expertise.
Now they again think they have solutions to the faltering housing market? Really?
An extension to what many feel is a largely impotent program, the Making Home Homes Affordable program, is not really an “initiative.” It is perhaps only an excuse to attempt to drive the numbers up of those who have been “helped” by the program.
Didn’t we learn from past mistakes that private-label or any other mortgage-backed securities on real estate greatly contributed to the devastating housing bubble that burst several years ago?
While it is another laudable step, efforts by the federal government to make it easier to build affordable, multifamily rental housing, this does not address the biggest reasons for foreclosures in America: the lack of well-paying jobs and the dearth of investment capital.
With an economy that has been adjusted to indicate a contraction of 3% in the first quarter of this year following many years of high unemployment and underemployment in this country, one can hardly make a case that we ever experienced any sort of economic recovery. And many, including this writer, are now predicting another housing slide.
Over the past several decades following World War II, good economic conditions coincided with the health of the housing market.
While I have heard several celebrity economists tied to the housing industry over the past year and more dispute the notion that as the housing market goes, so goes the general economy, my experience while in and around the housing industry for nearly 40 years tells me that notion remains sound.
Until we get the housing industry back on track by the private-sector creation of full-time, well-paying jobs that better support rents and mortgage payments, our economy will continue to struggle at best.
Also contributing to a lackluster housing market that is related to the lack of job creation is the deficiency of household formation. So many young people are staying home with their parent or parents far longer than previous generations ever did, or were allowed to. It’s hard to blame them when they are not encouraged to find work or, when they become motivated to find a decent job, they have significant difficulty doing so.
This is tantamount to being Un-American.
What many believe this country needs today is far fewer government “initiatives,” unless they include serious actions that help create an environment conducive to capital investment and a massive creation of well-paying employment opportunities, and more solutions driven by the private sector.