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Housing Policy: Mitt Romney Disappoints Me Once Again

Yes, I know that, as Ezra Klein says, in today's environment--I would argue since 1993, when Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole went all-in on the strategy of trying to wreck things come hell or high water to make Bill Clinton look like a failed President--you can be balanced or you can seem balanced.

But for some time I had been actually looking forward to Mitt Romney's release of his housing plan so that I could praise it.

It would, I thought, be written by Glenn Hubbard. It would be relatively activist and aggressive in dealing with the housing crisis. It would be a significant advance over Geithner-DeMarco. And I would be able to say that it looked to be a significant advance over Geithner-DeMarco--and that if you were on the fence about voting for Obama or Romney based on other considerations, housing policy should tip you toward Romney.

Well, Mitt Romney has disappointed me yet again:

Housing | Mitt Romney for President: Understanding that a healthy economy is the key to a healthy housing market, Mitt Romney has an economic plan that will result in more jobs and more take home pay.  Independent economists estimate that the plan will create 12 million jobs by the end of his first term, an essential element to ending the housing crisis.

But 12 million jobs over the first term is the baseline forecast. This isn't a difference between Romney and Obama--or, indeed, between Romney and Rudolf the Wonder Pig…

A Plan To End The Housing Crisis

  • Responsibly sell the 200,000 vacant foreclosed homes owned by the government
  • Facilitate foreclosure alternatives for those who cannot afford to pay their mortgage
  • Replace complex rules with smart regulation to hold banks accountable, restore a functioning marketplace and restart lending to creditworthy borrowers
  • Protect taxpayers from additional risk in the future by reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

In towns across the nation, foreclosed homes sit empty, depressing the value of entire neighborhoods. The government owns about 200,000 of these homes, or almost half of all of the foreclosed homes in the country.  Mitt Romney will responsibly get the government out of the homeownership business and return these vacant homes to productive uses that will increase neighboring home values.

Foreclosures are a difficult, long, and expensive process for homeowners and lenders alike.  Mitt Romney will facilitate creative alternatives to foreclosure for those who cannot afford to pay their mortgage.  These alternatives will minimize the instability of communities hard hit by the housing crisis, preserve the credit of homeowners, and can help keep families in their homes.

Since the housing crisis, the government has produced more than 8,000 pages of new rules and regulations.  The problem is that they are poorly designed, and have made it harder for people with good credit to get loans.  Mitt Romney will put in place smarter regulations to restore a functioning marketplace that holds banks accountable and restart lending to creditworthy borrowers. 

Any serious plan for ending the housing crisis must address its root cause.  Two government-sponsored companies known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were at the center of the housing crisis.  Mitt Romney will reform these government-sponsored companies to protect taxpayers from additional risk in the future by ensuring taxpayer dollars in the housing market are replaced with private dollars.

It's not written by Glenn Hubbard. It's not activist, not even relatively. It's not an aggressive effort to deal with the housing crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not at the center of the housing crisis. Unspecified "creative alternatives to foreclosure" are like Mitt Romney's tax-base-broadenings-that-dare-not-speak-their-name--it tells us nothing other than Romney has no idea what he is going to do. As does the call for unspecified "smart regulation". It is not an advance, let alone a significant advance, over Geithner-DeMarco.