Yesterday, President Barack Obama gave a housing policy speech in Phoenix, Ariz., and this afternoon he answered questions submitted via social media on a live web chat with the CEO of Zillow.
In the speech and the questions, the President leaned heavily on the American Dream of homeownership narrative, and how everyone wants to own a home (though not everyone right away, and renting is totally ok too, really). He also kept pushing his distinction about responsible vs. irresponsible homeowners, while never, for example, talking about responsible vs. irresponsible lenders or investors.
He emphasized his HARP III refinancing program and replacing Fannie and Freddie with an explicit, but more limited, government guarantee. (See what economists Dean Baker had to say about that on Rooflines when the Bipartisan Policy Center recommended it earlier this year.) The president also spoke of strengthening FHA, preserving access to the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (which I'd been under the impression more or less only existed because of the government-sponsored secondary mortgage market), and simplifying the language of mortgage documents.
The mortgage bankers and Realtors liked what the President had to say (in his speech, he made quite a point of just how not-socialist his desire to get private capital 'back into the mortgage market' was). Many housing groups, including LISC and Enterprise, have come out in support of what he outlined. The National Low Income Housing Coalition issued a statement calling for stronger and more specific commitments on rental housing, while the National Community Reinvestment Coalition detailed its concern that “an affirmative obligation for the market to serve creditworthy low- and moderate-income borrowers with conventional mortgage products” is missing from the housing finance reform proposals currently on the table.
Meanwhile, before the live chat, our Twitter feed under the hashtag #AskObamaHousing was full of specific questions about holding banks accountable, funding the National Housing Trust Fund, reforming the mortgage interest deduction, and handling the influx of absentee investors into hard-hit neighborhoods.
Not surprisingly, the president did not take any of these questions, sticking to “regular joe” type questions about people's personal housing situations. Nor did he address any of the “20 Urgent Questions“ Salon's David Dayen thought should be posed.
Did you watch? What were your questions for the president and did you feel he answered them?
(Photo Couresty of Justin Sloan CC BY-ND-NC)
My concern is the “American Dream” is being “Wall Streeted” meaning institutional investors are buying up single family homes, lost to foreclosure, to rent instead of leaving them on the open market for people to purchase and own. This is a loss for lower and middle-income Americans to gain equity and increase their investment potential.