Why has one of the nation's most critical issues been missing from the presidential debates? Faith Schwartz, CoreLogic's Senior Vice President for Government Affairs says it can't be for lack of material.
While candidates on either side "haven't been shy about taking positions on a wide range of issues: everything from immigration to healthcare and gun control to climate change," she says, a discussion about housing has been missing in action.
Schwart maintains that housing and the broader issue of affordable shelter are critical elements to the issue of the future of the middle class, the sustainability of the American Dream of homeownership, even the appropriate role of government.
For starters she says, homeownership is at its lowest level in decades and observers like the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard and the Urban Institute, are warning about a looming rental-housing crisis.
The Joint Center says that between now and 2030, nearly 60 percent of all new households that are formed will be renters and the number of severely rent-burdened households will grow to 13 million in the next 10 years. The decline in homeownership and the prospect of unaffordable shelter disproportionally hurt low-income families, minorities, and elderly populations; the latter will be the fastest growing cohort of Americans.
All of these, Schwartz says, are important issues for any campaign to discuss. "One argument can be made that existing housing policies have failed in that that not everyone is ready to be a homeowner and would point to the Great Recession, as the price our country paid to learn that lesson."
She points out that from a purely economic standpoint the housing recovery is moving forward, however the government remains dominant in housing with its guarantees provided through FHA, the VA and the USDA rural program and while everyone claims to be for it, nothing has happened with housing finance and GSE reform. Altogether the U.S. taxpayer is on the hook for more than 70 percent of all mortgage originations.
"Alternatively opponents of big government could make hay with the delays and confusion surrounding new regulations due to Dodd Frank, such as new disclosures, compensation rules and servicing rules that have been implemented.... particularly if these issues continue to have some confusion into the spring home-buying season."
Schwartz says it seems fair to ask what each candidate intends to do about this and how quickly it will be addressed in a new administration. Should the government continue to play a "majority sized" role in housing finance? Some would argue yes. But if not, what's the plan for bringing private capital back into the housing finance market?