Neither Obama or Romney tackling issue of housing

There are plenty of issues to talk about this election season but neither Obama or Romney have done much to address housing:

For existing homeowners and the government, though, housing remains an enormous issue. If new government initiatives are not implemented, it could take another three to five years for the market to fully recover, analysts estimate. And The Wall Street Journal reports that neither candidate has offered ways to remake failed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have already cost taxpayers $140 billion and face further losses.

Across the United States, nearly 10.8 million properties — 22 percent of homes with a mortgage on them — remain underwater, according to CoreLogic, a data analysis firm. The numbers of properties where owners owe more than their home is worth is shrinking, but analysts say the process can, and must, be sped up.

Both Obama and Romney, though, have been silent on the issue. Why?

“It turns out to be a lose-lose issue for both candidates,” John Vogel, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, recently told MarketWatch. “And therefore gets ignored.”

For each candidate, the reason for staying mum on housing is different. Obama does not have the strongest record to run on. And Romney has found that wading into housing opens himself up to being painted as a heartless corporate mogul.

So housing greatly contributed to the economic crisis yet neither candidate wants to bring it up. Perhaps this topic might top an unfortunate list titled something like “topics that candidates absolutely do not want to talk about.” They can discuss a range of controversial topics like abortion, education, social security and medicare reform, the outsourcing of jobs, and tough foreign policy topics but not housing…

After seeing a variety of opinions on the topic of housing in the last few years, I wonder if most people, including the experts, are just hoping it comes back. Thus far, government policies do not seem to have helped much. As some have noted, without a more robust housing market, it is difficult for people to move and take advantage of the jobs that might be available. Local governments need increasing property tax values to bring in more revenues. Mortgage lenders, the real estate industry, and builders and developers would benefit from more activity. And if the housing industry doesn’t come back quickly? There doesn’t seem to be much in place for this possibility.

I wonder what Americans would want to hear about housing, if it even rates highly enough (or might simply be part of “the economy”). In the earlier stages of the economic crisis, there was a lot of talk about not providing a lot of support to people who should have known better than to take out mortgages they might not be able to afford. Who deserves to get help? Would Americans be happy with more regulation of mortgage lenders so they won’t be allowed to offer mortgages homeowners that could harm borrowers?

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