A Self-Destructive Housing Policy


home castleA poorly conceived housing policy is one of the driving forces in our economy’s over dependence on debt that has impeded the politics of financial policy reform. Federal Reserve policy has managed this by accommodating the same wrong-headed policies. The costs are exacted from the very taxpayers who have acted prudently.

Michael Milken quoted in the WSJ (article):

As someone who helped finance several of the nation’s leading residential builders, I understand the important role the industry plays in the economy. Homebuilders didn’t create the problems. Policies made in Washington distorted the banking system and discouraged personal responsibility by subsidizing loans that borrowers couldn’t otherwise afford. This encouraged housing speculation supported by financial leverage. Ultimately, taxpayers got the bill.

Housing’s 2008 collapse led to the U.S. Treasury takeover of Fannie’s and Freddie’s obligations even as the Federal Housing Administration increased its guarantees to more than $1 trillion and the Federal Reserve stepped up purchases of mortgage-backed securities. Federal debt surged.

Americans will eventually have to pay for that through some combination of inflation, higher taxes, higher interest rates or reduced benefits and services. For now, the Fed is doing what the savings and loan industry did in the 1980s: borrowing short term while lending long term. When interest rates rise, the value of the government’s mortgage holdings will decline.

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