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Correction to This Article
A Nov. 13 Real Estate article misstated the amount by which the Bush administration's fiscal 2004 budget cut rental housing vouchers. It was $1.6 billion, not $1.6 million.

Industry Plans To Keep Up The Pressure

Housing Groups See No Chance To Relax Lobbying After Bush Win

By Sandra Fleishman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 13, 2004; Page F01

The nation's home builders, real estate sales people and mortgage bankers stood by their man in the presidential election and now they hope he stands by his housing agenda during the next four years.

The National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of Realtors and the Mortgage Bankers of America don't endorse presidential candidates, they're quick to point out. But the trade associations acknowledge that many of their members, as small-business owners and big-business executives, are in the GOP fold.

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Industry members also voted decisively with their checkbooks. Employees and political action committees in the three industries gave almost three times as much money to President Bush as they did to his rival, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) -- about $10.8 million compared with $3.7 million as of Oct. 4, according to information from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Now that their favorite is in for another four years, you might think the three big housing industry groups could relax. In his first term and during the campaign, after all, Bush repeated his commitment to two of their prime goals -- boosting homeownership and cutting regulation.

But because housing has never been the No. 1 item on presidential agendas, spokesmen for the groups said, they believe they need to keep the pressure on.

A big concern this go-round is that Bush's second-term domestic priorities could have unforeseen effects on housing.

For instance, the administration may move quickly to tighten regulation of secondary mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said Gerald M. Howard, chief executive and executive vice president of the builders group. "What we're going to try and impress them with . . . is 'Please, before you get into the details of reregulating or reforming, make sure that you analyze the potential impacts on the housing market of doing that.' "

Spokesmen for the three housing groups say their members also support the president's key agenda item, tax code reform, but they want to slam the door on any talk about eliminating the deduction for mortgage interest payments.

Meanwhile, affordable housing advocacy groups and those interested in preserving federal rental assistance funds warn that the record budget deficit could make a fatter target of federal housing programs, including those that Bush has proposed in order to boost homeownership and create affordable housing.

Any effort to ease the deficit by cutting spending will put more pressure on departments such as Housing and Urban Development, which spends more than half of its budget on rental assistance, they say.

These groups have criticized Bush in the past for what they see as underfunding of programs for lower-income families. The administration disagrees; in fact, it trumpets its increases to various programs.

"We've obviously had four years of experience with the Bush administration and what they would do to low-income programs, so we know what to expect," said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington-based advocacy group. "We don't expect them to do any better and probably to do worse."

These critics have consistently said the Bush administration has neglected renters, low-income housing residents and affordable housing development while favoring homeowners.

The administration has defended its approach on housing, which encourages private development of affordable housing and would establish economic opportunity zones to encourage public and private investment in distressed neighborhoods.

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