Sliding numbers on the value of homeownership in Fannie Mae’s latest nationwide housing survey brought in sharp focus the debate over Federal housing policy at a critical time.
Just a month ago the administration held a remarkable day-long conference on housing finance reform in Washington that made it clear big changes are coming to housing finance. The conference was part of a concerted process to develop a far-reaching proposal scheduled to be announced early next year. It will restructure housing finance, a primary way the government supports homeownership.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said the reforms must: continue to make mortgage credit widely available; promote affordable housing for home buyers and renters alike; protect consumers from predatory lending; and promote financial stability.
“In the next few months, they’ll weigh whether there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to helping families finance the American Dream,” reported USA Today.
Fannie Mae reported last week that the percentage of Americans who believe a home is a safe investment has fallen 16 percent since 2003, more than any type of investment. It light of the housing economy, that shift may not be surprising. What’s significant is that Fannie is the original cheerleader and greatest benefactor of policies supporting homeownership.
The survey also found that the percentage of respondents who would be more likely to rent than buy has risen 3 percent is six months. A majority of the renters participating in the survey said they would be more likely to rent their next home if they were to move, increasing significantly from 54 percent in January to 60 percent in July.
Even before the Fannie survey and the Treasury conference, the extent and nature of Federal support for homeownership has occupied Washington debate. Even among some housing advocates, the Administration, despite its extensive efforts to halt foreclosures, promote sales and restore home equity, is coming under fire.
“Where the administration has fallen short is in improving the way Americans feel about owning a home. Granted, previous administrations might have overshot the need and right to own a home. However, more recently homeowners and potential homebuyers have been inundated with messages on the financial risks and responsibilities of mortgage borrowing. What is lost in these messages is the social value and personal satisfaction of owning your own home. Let’s face it, if housing were on a daytime talk show – we’d being giving it a makeover,” wrote Tim Rood of the Collingwood Group recently in the Voice of Housing blog. Rood co-founded Capital Financial Solution and was Vice President at First American, where he successfully led the company’s professional services group.