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Housing Must Remain Nation's Top Priority, Say Realtors®

We need to keep housing first on the nation's public policy agenda, because housing and homeownership issues affect all Americans, and a housing recovery is necessary for the nation's economic well-being.

That was the message delivered today by National Association of Realtors® President Ron Phipps during the New Solutions for America's Housing Crisis forum, where he joined a panel of experts to discuss solutions for addressing the country's housing and economic challenges. The event was hosted by Economic Policies for the 21st Century and the Progressive Policy Institute.

"As the leading advocate for homeownership, Realtors® know that issues like affordable financing, natural disaster insurance, the mortgage interest deduction, and foreclosures and short sales don't just affect people who own a home - homeownership shapes communities and strengthens the nation's economy," said Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "America needs strong public policies that promote responsible, sustainable homeownership and that will help stabilize the nation's housing market to support an economic recovery."

Phipps said that housing is not recovering at the rate it should be and called on legislators and regulators to do no harm. He said that proposed legislation and regulatory rules or changes to homeownership tax benefits need to help America out of today's economic struggles and not further harm consumer confidence or exacerbate problems within the fragile real estate industry.

Overly stringent standards and lower mortgage loan limits are preventing qualified borrowers from getting loans, and Phipps called on lenders and regulators to reduce the overcorrection in underwriting standards for mortgages. He urged support for policies that ensure qualified borrowers can obtain safe and sound mortgages in all markets at all times and encourage sound lending without high downpayment requirements.

"Realtors® support strong underwriting, but too-stringent standards are curtailing the ability of creditworthy consumers from obtaining mortgages to purchase a home, and that's impacting the recovery," said Phipps. "Making mortgages available to creditworthy home buyers and streamlining loan modifications and short sales will help stabilize and revitalize the housing industry and reduce the rising inventory of foreclosed homes."

Phipps recommended that political and industry leaders work together to help reshape real estate and put the country back on the right track. "Our goal is to help ensure that anyone in this country who aspires to own their own home and can afford to do so is not denied the opportunity to build their future through homeownership," Phipps said.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun also participated in the forum on a panel, "Homeownership, Tax Policy and Deficits." Yun said it's a misplaced argument to say the mortgage interest deduction is suddenly part of the deficit problem, when it's been part of the federal tax code for nearly 100 years.

"The mortgage interest deduction is vital to the stability of the American housing market and economy," said Yun. "Now is the worst possible time to discuss changes to the tax laws, which could impair the housing market's fragile recovery and a broader job market recovery.

"Reducing or eliminating the MID is a de facto tax increase on homeowners, who already pay 80 to 90 percent of U.S. federal income tax. And middle-class families would be among the hardest hit; 65 percent of families who claim the MID earn less than $100,000 per year," said Yun.

Yun also emphasized that any changes to the MID would greatly hamper the ability of small businesses to create jobs given that housing equity is often a major source of funding.

A video webcast of the event is available for viewing at www.livestream.com/progressivepolicyinstitute.

The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org.
 

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