Romney may be softening his position on housing

at 01:34 PM ET, 01/23/2012

Mitt Romney has been distancing himself from the views of his chief economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, on the campaign trail. As Jim Tankersley points out in the National Journal, Hubbard has advocated strongly for the government to spearhead mass refinancing through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while Romney has insisted that government intervention is the problem.

But Romney’s position may be softening.
(SOURCE: AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

In October, Romney championed a total laissez-faire approach to the housing crisis. “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom,” he said. But now that he’s campaigning in Florida — one of the states where the foreclosure crisis has hit the hardest — Romney did suggest that some kind of refinancing would help the housing market heal, urging the banks to “to show greater flexibility in being able to renegotiate with those people who have circumstances that would justify that renegotiation.”

Romney also vaguely alluded to some kind of government role in helping get the market back on its feet. “The idea that somehow this is going to cure itself all by itself is probably not real,” he said. “There’s going to have to be a much more concerted effort to work with the lending institutions and help them take action which is in their best interest and the best interest of the homeowners.” He left similar wiggle room when asked about the issue in Nevada. “The idea of helping people to refinance homes, to stay in them, is worth further consideration,” he said. “I’m not signing on until I find out who’s going to pay and who’s going to get bailed out.”

Coming to Florida, Romney may realize he’s in a tough spot. This morning, his rhetoric softened, as well, as he said that the stories of the foreclosure victims “break my heart” and were “just tragic.”

But he still hammered the point home that the government was largely responsible for the ongoing housing crisis by overregulating the economy. “The banks seem to be paralyzed...they’re frightened about what’s happening with Dodd-Frank, and taking actions that may put them in peril,” Romney told a handpicked roundtable of Florida foreclosure victims.

So, Romney is resisting a full embrace of Hubbard’s own solution to the housing crisis through Fannie and Freddie, but he’s left himself some room to change his mind down the road. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that presidents generally adhere to the policies they’ve advocated on the campaign trail.

 
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