Obama Forgot About Housing
I have to say I was a little surprised (read: disappointed) to hear so very little about housing in President Obama's State of the Union speech last night. Yes, he mentioned folks were losing their homes, in the long list of ills plaguing the American people.
And then, quite a bit lower down in the speech he said,
"The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1500 on mortgage payments. This year we will step up refinancing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages."
Yes, the Treasury Department's $1.25 trillion program to buy agency mortgage backed securities, drove down mortgage rates and opened up the mortgage market for some buyers. That program ends in two months. The Administration's refinance program, which allows borrowers with up to 25 percent negative equity in their homes to refinance with Fannie and Freddie, got some folks cheaper monthly payments. And the Home Affordable Modification Program, while widely and wildly criticized for doing very little, has kept some borrowers in their homes...for now.
But as they watched their very first State of the Union speech last night, I explained to my kids that this speech is supposed to be about how the last year was and how the President is going to make this year better.
We got a lot of last year in housing, but really no this year.
The President did not elaborate on how he's going to "step up" refinancing.
Most of us already know how difficult it is to refinance nowadays, with the, dare I use Yiddish, fah-kahktah appraisal process. I don't think more refis are going to cure what ails the housing market.
The President made it clear that Jobs Jobs Jobs are front and center for him.
Great, because guess what?
Jobs Jobs Jobs are the number one factor driving foreclosures right now, not subprime mortgages, and the Administration's modification and refi programs can't do anything for borrowers without a job. But hundreds of thousands of borrowers will lose their homes before his Jobs proposals trickle down to real pocketbooks.
Perhaps the President has taken the side of many who believe that the housing market simply needs to correct itself, no matter how painful that process will be.
If that's his point of view, fine, but he needs to own it, and not use my money to put expensive bandaids on cuts that are unlikely to heal.
Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com