House Speaker John Boehner announced he’s stepping down from Congress and leadership of the House next month, and the announcement was met with a flood of tears.
From Boehner. And exactly no one else.
Between Boehner and Glenn Beck, these two could solve the California drought with their tears alone.
Sorry, I just don’t get it. Men get to cry two times in public — at their father’s funeral and at the rescreening of Gladiator. That’s it. (Here's a collection of Boehner vines, because why not?)
But back to Boehner’s announcement — in journalism we have a joke that if both sides are mad at you, you must be doing something right.
Boehner is the Bizarro World of that axiom. Neither Democrats nor Republicans liked him that much, and it was because he was usually doing nothing right.
With a spine of silly putty and often one over the eight, the orange-hued House Speaker got a whole lot of nothing done, angered Democrats despite rolling over for them, and led the whole of the House of Representatives to its lowest approval since… polls.
But the biggest sin from our perspective is that he never once did anything to advance housing policy or GSE reform.
So who will take over? And who should? Most eyes are on House Majority Leader McCarthy out of California, since he has the controls of the backroom machine that put Boehner in the center chair and kept him there.
The certain jokeying for the Speakership makes a volatile fiscal fight in late November all the more likely, which means political uncertainty and market volatility. As Isaac Boltansky at Compass Point lets us know, markets have grown comfortable with Boehner, knowing he didn’t have the backbone for a serious fiscal showdown.
One thing is for sure, a lot of us in the housing space would rather have someone with housing policy on their mind.
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri is chair of the housing and insurance subcommittee, but while he’s strong on housing he’s just not ready to take any kind of primary role yet.
The obvious choice — and I’m biased on a number of counts — is Jeb Hensarling.
For one, he’s from Texas, so yeah.
But he’s also got a strong leadership track record, and while he’s a strong conservative, he’s demonstrated bipartisan leadership and a steady hand at the tiller of the House Financial Services Committee. He’s been effective in bringing steady change within the GOP, without being a firebrand or bomb-thrower.
From a housing perspective, Hensarling knows how important the policy is, and he knows the subject well. Maybe his PATH Act is too much to get through as long as the White House is otherwise occupied, but it’s a better start than some of the Senate housing reform throwaways.
Why is leadership in Congress that knows housing and mortgage finance so important?
Because we’re getting none from the current President on the subjects and even less discussion of it from the current presidential candidates.
For starters, housing and mortgage finance is almost 18% of the GDP. It’s, to borrow a word from one frontrunner, “yuge.”
But it’s also down deep and up front personal. It affects real lives, not just budget committee deals and lobbyist lunches.
Pam Patenaude, president of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families, is really trying to get presidential candidates to talk about housing. Indeed, the situation is so dire, Ronald Terwilliger, himself chairman emeritus and retired CEO of Trammell Crow Residential, said that in his four decades of working in housing, he has never seen housing in such desperate shape.
Up in one of the first primary states, New Hampshire, where you don’t think of affordability and rents as a major issue, it really is.
According to a recent Harvard study, in 2013 nearly 36 percent of New Hampshire’s 519,000 households paid more than 30 percent of their gross incomes on housing (the traditional measure of affordability), while some 78,000 households paid in excess of 50 percent.
New Hampshire Housing tells us that, since 2000, median rents in the state have increased by nearly 50 percent, far exceeding the 24 percent increase in median incomes for renters over the same period.
Rental vacancy rates have plummeted in New Hampshire, putting upward pressure on rents and making it more difficult to find an affordable apartment. There have been fewer than 800 units of multi-family rental housing built annually since 2005, far short of what is necessary to keep up with demand.
This is one reason why HousingWire is teaming up with the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation as media partner for the upcoming forum on housing policy that will feature leaders from the housing and mortgage finance industry. On Oct. 16, a number of political candidates and some major players in the real estate finance and investment space will gather for the New Hampshire Housing Summit at St. Anselm College. For more information, click here.
So anyway, adios Boehner. Let’s hope the next generation of leadership in the House, and the White House, actually live up to the word “leader” and do something about housing policy.
Americans deserve that much, and not just a bunch of crocodile tears.