How Housing Plays Politics in 2012

Phillip Spears | Digital Vision | Getty Images

Housing may have been the catalyst for the Great Recession, but it is not number one on America’s fix-it list for our next President.

Fixing the economy should come before housing policy, according to a new survey by real estate website Trulia.com.

Americans first want to see lower unemployment, more employment growth and reducing the federal budgetdeficit.

“The partisan split in Washington and the recent housing policy debates are not what Americans want from their government,” said Trulia’s chief economist Jed Kolko. “Although Washington and lobbyists have been debating the conforming loan limit, Americans would rather see more action to make refinancing easier and to deal with vacant homes.”

Still, those same respondents, 72 percent of them, said government policies should encourage home ownership. Wasn’t that “encouragement” kind of what got us into this mess?

The Trulia survey seeks to draw distinctions between what Republicans want from housing policy and what Democrats want, but the answers don’t differ all that much, except when it comes to helping troubled borrowers. 74 percent of Democrats want government to encourage mortgage loan modifications that reduce principal balances. Just 61 percent of Republicans support that.

For respondents from both political parties, the number one sign of housing recovery would be fewer defaults and foreclosures; at the bottom of the list is rising homeownership.

This is perhaps the most troubling finding for the near future of the housing market, because we are going to see more foreclosures in the first half of 2012, as banks work through the enormous backlog of delinquent loans that were on hold this year due to the so-called “robo-signing” foreclosure paperwork mess.

Since consumer confidenceis going to be the driving factor in housing’s recovery, increased foreclosures and the headlines that go with them, regardless of where they are locally, will have an overall impact on home buying nationally. Sales have been stabilizing slightly this Fall, but likely only because foreclosures had been stalled, so the distressed share of the market was not so blatant; that’s about to change.

Most analysts are predicting that the big pain will be in the first half of 2012, and as those foreclosures are supposedly quickly absorbed into the market, organic home buyers and sellers will come back. However, more than half of those surveyed by Trulia said they were not at all confident that the President can stabilize the housing market in the next year. This is a notable increase since he took office.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @Diana_Olick