Those Who Avoided Risk Call Plan A Raw Deal
Friday, December 7, 2007; Page D01
In 2005, when even the bartender on U Street talked about all his condo investments, Matthew Brown and his fiancee walked away from the local housing boom. Instead, the District couple decided to take the unfashionable approach: save for a hefty down payment and keep credit card debt down.
The "long in the tooth" car got older. The vacations became less frequent. "My fiancee and I have been renting, biding our time, doing all the things people tell you to do: save, don't carry balances on your credit cards."
So yesterday's news that major lenders had agreed to freeze rates on some subprime adjustable-rate mortgages stirred deep resentment.
"It seems almost like you are rewarded for being less responsible," said the management consultant, 33. "There are a lot of downsides for people who didn't buy into a lot of the frenzy."
The agreement has sparked bitterness and anger among those who either sat out the housing boom or endured friends' snickers when they stuck with a traditional mortgage and a smaller house. To some who watched prices rise out of their reach or who moved to cheaper cities, the agreement looks like a penalty for those who didn't gamble.
"What about those of us who played by the rules? Can we get six months of free gasoline? Isn't there something for the rest of us?" asked Tim MacKinnon. After watching a friend use his home as an "ATM" for years, MacKinnon left Washington for New Jersey, where the $25,000 he had socked away went further.
The resentment is apparent on blogs that chronicle the mortgage crisis. It has some Republican lawmakers worried about a backlash.
At the blog HousingPanic ( http:/
Then there is the name-calling and hostility: It is a plan to help the "greedy" who "squeal like stuck pigs" when the market turns bad, said one post on HousingPanic. Another declared: "If I only had been stupid or greedy instead then Uncle Sam would have my back."
"Let the punishment fit the crime. That is where the passion comes from," said Debi Averett, who launched the blog Housing Doom ( http:/
The deal reached by government officials, mortgage lenders and Wall Street firms aims mostly at subprime borrowers who can currently afford their payments but won't be able to once they adjust during the next three years. It attempts to forestall a wave of foreclosures that some worry could help push the country into a recession.
And that's a worthy goal, backers say. "We should look out not just for ourselves but for our neighbors. Be thy brother's keeper, that is what we should be about," said Bruce Marks, chief executive of the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, a nonprofit group that wants the deal expanded. Resentment is misplaced, he said. "It is also in our self-interest" to help troubled homeowners, he said.