The administration's actions to bolster the dollar will quickly lead to higher mortgage rates, less mortgage money and a slowdown in home building, housing industry officials predicted yesterday.
Raising the discount rate "will send mortgage interest rates to all time highs, while housing production will inevitably drop and unemployment will increase," predicted the president-elect of National Associataion of Home Builders, Vondal S. Gravlee of Birmingham, Ala.
Mortgage rates could hit 11 percent - or even higher - within a month or two and mortgage money could begin to dry up within two to three months, predicted Dr. Kenneth Thygerson, chief economist for the U.S. League of Savings Associations.
Robert H. McKinney, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, said he "regrets" the action, but said it appeared to curb on credit might not be as damaging to the housing industry as past efforts. "Our main thrust will be to not have housing be the only one to take the brunt," McKinney said at a press conference, carefully avoiding any direct criticism of the administration's moves.
McKinney returned to Washington late yesterday from the convention of the Savings and Loan League in Dallas. After news of the discount rate action, the league revised its forecast of housing starts next year, reducing anticipated home production by 100,000 houses, from 1.75 million to 1.65 million.
The shortage of mortgages money and a reduction in demand for new homes because of an anticipated slowdown in the economy were cited to explain the new forecast.
Homebuilding officials were the most critical. The Federal Reserve Board's actions "will erase at least for the time being the hopes and dreams of millions of young and middle income people in this country who are trying to buy a home for the first time," said home builder Gravlee.
"The bottom line is tat this monetary move runs contrary to the best interest of American homebuyers," he added.
Homebuilding industry economists said forecasts of 11 percent interest rates on home mortgages assumed that many potential buyers would decided to delay their purchase, thus easing the demand for mortgage money and helping hold rates down.
But in active housing markets like the Washington metropolitan area and some sunbelt cities, the demand for money could force rates higher. Mortgage rates in the Washington area are already around 10 percent.
The high rates are likely to prevail throughout the winter, or until some dramatic action eases inflation, industry officials speculated.
In addition to higher mortgage rates, would-be home buyers face higher downpayment requirements and other curbs in the availability of mortgage money, saving sand loan league economist Thygerson said.
But like McKinney, he said the total impact on the housing industry might not be as great as in the recession of 1974 and 1969.
Saving and loan associations have so far been able to maintain the flow of mortgage money, aided by new six-month market certificates that pay interest based on the treasury bills rate.
But the increased discount rates will raise the cost of funds to savings mortgage lenders and could force some to reduce their lending, Thygerson said.
Other lenders, will have to decide whether they can safely make long term mortgages when a major source of their fund is six-month deposits.
"The brighter side of the situation is that the recent actions clearly represent a fundamental attack on our international payments problem and our serious domestic inflation," said Thygerson.