Pleasanton Weekly

Real Estate - November 25, 2011

Forum calls for housing to be a 'national priority'

Home ownership important to fabric of society, Realtors say

by Jeb Bing

The struggling housing market needs to be a priority on the nation's public policy agenda, because housing and homeownership issues affect all Americans.

That was the message from speakers at the Legislative and Political Forum recently at the 2011 Realtors Conference & Expo in Anaheim.

Realtors at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) annual conference heard from Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and political media consultant Alex Castellanos, who both agreed the housing market is hurting and needs to be a top priority for the 2012 presidential candidates.

Both speakers said that while much of the debate focuses on the financial aspects of homeownership, there is no denying that owning a home has many social benefits and is important to the fabric of society.

"Owning a home represents the best of America, is a goal for many families and has many benefits beyond the financial," said Castellanos. "We build the economy on homeownership, and until the housing market is restored, the nation and economy can't move forward."

He said that instead of taking money from hardworking, middle-class Americans by reducing or eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, the government should to cut its spending and give back to the American people.

"Taking away the mortgage interest deduction would let even more air out of the balloon and be devastating to the housing market and economy," he added. "I don't anticipate changes to mortgage interest deduction."

Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) also spoke at the forum and urged Realtors to reach out to their members of Congress and encourage them to get involved in stabilizing the housing market.

"A healthy housing industry helps everyone in the country," Miller said. "The housing market has led this nation out of every downturn we've had in the past."

"Congress needs to focus on stabilizing the market, and that must be dealt with today and in a comprehensive fashion that will serve home owners today and in the future," he added.

He said that legislation and regulations to fix the housing market must do no further harm. Miller said reduced loan limits for conforming loans, proposals that would eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and calls to eliminate or reduce the mortgage interest deduction are having a negative impact on consumer confidence and the housing industry, and could lead to less liquidity and possibly more foreclosures.

Miller talked about the future of the secondary mortgage market and said that while private capital must be the dominant source of mortgage credit, government involvement is necessary to ensure investor confidence and mortgage liquidity.

NAR leaders said the organization supports the principles of a bill introduced by Congressman Miller and U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) earlier this year,

They said that H.R. 2413, the "Secondary Market Facility for Residential Mortgages Act of 2011," offers a comprehensive strategy for reforming the secondary mortgage market and gives the federal government a continued role to ensure a consistent flow of mortgage credit in all markets and all economic conditions.

California Gov. Jerry Brown was also a featured speaker at the forum and told attendees that while it's important for consumers to live within their means, it also critical that they invest in their futures, and one important way is through home ownership. He also said there needs to be more help for underwater home owners through refinancing their mortgages or reducing their debt burden.

Brown hopes Congress can come together soon and develop solutions that will solve many of today's housing and economic challenges.

"The nation needs to have restored confidence in the housing market and economy," he said.

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