For all the talk about the economy, Wednesday night’s presidential debate barely touched on what started it all. Housing barely got a mention by either President Obama or Mitt Romney, and both steered clear of addressing the foreclosure crisis that helped sweep the country into a recession, devastated millions of families and has continued to hold back the recovery. What’s more, you might get the impression that “this housing crisis is over,” writes Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia, a real-estate search service.
When housing did come up, Kolko says, it was in the context of how the market has come back (Obama: “housing has begun to rise”) or how to prevent the next housing crisis through stricter mortgage lending standards (one part of Dodd-Frank that Romney says that he likes).
It’s true that there has been a lot of progress made: nationwide, the foreclosure rate is down and home sales have jumped up. But given the severity of the housing crisis, that only puts us 42 percent of the way back to a housing recovery, according to Kolko’s housing barometer; as of August, construction spending was only 27 percent of the way back to normal. And despite expanded government refinancing programs, many homeowners are still struggling with payments and remain at risk of losing their homes.
But each candidate had an obvious political motivation not to broach the subject: Obama himself has admitted that his administration didn’t do enough, quickly enough, to respond to the housing crisis. Its $25 billion mortgage settlement has already attracted mortgage fraud scam artists. And Romney’s own housing plan shows that he wouldn’t do much differently as president.