For Release Sunday, May 19, 2013
© 2013 Washington Post Writers Group
A housing commission formed by the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center has a plan, formed over 16 months of debate and released in March. The center will now “take it on the road” for intensive discussions across the country.
The need is indisputable. Precious little has been done to revamp America’s housing finance policy in the 4 1/2 years since rampant speculation and malleable regulations triggered the Great Recession.
The Treasury Department did take over the failing housing-finance giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But few think that’s a good long-term solution. For the most part, the $10 trillion U.S. mortgage market has been left to float unguided.
It’s a dangerous course, writ in multibillions. With federal resources short, the country owes itself a robust debate about the exorbitant costs (now close to $100 billion yearly) of the home mortgage tax deduction. Concurrently, it needs to figure out how the United States meets the housing needs of a fast-aging population and does far more to assure affordable shelter for imperiled low-income and minority Americans.
The Bipartisan Policy Center assembled impressive leadership for its housing commission – on the Democratic side, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell; on the Republican side, former senator and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez of Florida and former Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond of Missouri.