Obama’s Take on the Housing Recovery


           Ronald Davis

Reposted from Article 08/06/13


Now with the Recovery well on it’s way we need to get people into the American Dream, like the pattern of the Mortgage meltdown is now in reverse, Phoenix is Recovering, then Florida, Nevada.. It is time to buy into Bellingham..

With a recovering Arizona economy as his backdrop, President Barack Obama on Tuesday laid out his plan to strengthen middle-class homeownership, calling it a cornerstone of the American dream.

Obama traveled to Phoenix to talk about his ideas because since the mortgage meltdown and foreclosure crisis, the area’s housing market, like that of much of the rest of the country, has begun to show signs of life.

As the rebound continues, the president said he wants to set “a rock-solid foundation” to make sure such a housing catastrophe never happens again.

“As home prices rise, we can’t just reinflate another housing bubble,” Obama said during his roughly 30-minute appearance before about 2,200 people at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix’s Ahwatukee Foothills neighborhood.

“I hope everybody here in Arizona learned some hard lessons from what happened,” he said. “Housing prices generally don’t just keep on going up forever at the kind of pace it was going up. It was crazy. So, what we want to do is something stable and steady.”

That includes protecting taxpayers from future bailouts of the quasi-governmental mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which Obama accused of profiting for too long in a “heads we win, tails you lose” scenario that forced taxpayers to pick up the tab for the mortgage giants’ bad bets. Obama announced for the first time that he supports a bipartisan effort in the Senate that would end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “as we know them.”

Homeownership is just one pillar of Obama’s economic strategy that he calls “a better bargain for the middle class,” which also emphasizes the need for good jobs, good education, affordable health care and a secure retirement. His Phoenix speech followed remarks last week in Tennessee about jobs and comes during Congress’ annual August break.

Obama addressed the housing crisis during his first presidential visit to Arizona in February 2009, when he had been in office for less than a month. Returning to those themes, he said that after 41/2 years, “our housing market is beginning to heal” and it is time to build on that progress, which includes rising home prices, increases in sales and construction, and a drop in foreclosures by nearly two-thirds.

Owning a home remains the “most tangible cornerstone that lies at the heart of the American dream,” he said.

Highlighting housing’s role as a key economic engine, Obama and Shaun Donovan, Housing and Urban Development secretary, briefly toured a Chandler construction-supply company on Tuesday.

“A home is the ultimate evidence that here in America, hard work pays off, that responsibility is rewarded,” Obama said.

But Obama’s sixth official trip to Arizona, a politically red state that he failed to carry in either the 2008 or 2012 elections, prompted some Republicans to object to his suggestion that his administration had helped bring about the improved economic outlook.

Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican whose 2012 finger-pointing confrontation with Obama was captured in a photograph that went viral, said “the Arizona comeback” happened because of “the hardworking people of Arizona” and in spite of Obama’s policies.

“Given President Obama’s recent interest in job creation and economic recovery, he certainly came to the right state at the right time,” Brewer said in a written statement released after she greeted him upon his 11:30 a.m. arrival at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

“The Arizona comeback is in full swing, and this was the president’s opportunity to witness firsthand a true economic success story,” Brewer said. “However, I am disappointed that the president used his visit as an opportunity to lay out a plan for even more big government programs, while also trying to share credit for Arizona’s housing and economic recovery.”

Housing plan

In his speech, Obama recalled how in his grandfather’s generation, both homebuyers and lenders acted more responsibly. He said he hopes America can return to those days.

“In that earlier generation, houses weren’t for flipping around, they weren’t for speculation — houses were to live in and to build a life with,” Obama said. “And, unfortunately, over time, responsibility too often gave way to recklessness.”

The president’s five-step housing plan unveiled Tuesday includes:

Saving homeowners “thousands of dollars” annually by refinancing their mortgages at today’s interest rates.

Making it harder for “reckless buyers” to purchase homes they can’t afford and cutting red tape for responsible families who want a mortgage.

Fixing the broken immigration system, which he said would help the housing market by adding more buyers who would push up values.

Rebuilding struggling communities, in Arizona and elsewhere, by repairing rundown homes and razing vacant properties.

Investing in affordable rental housing and continuing to combat homelessness.

Winding down government backing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, increasing the role of private capital in the mortgage market and eliminating public bailouts also would help, Obama said.

“I know that sounds confusing to folks who call me a socialist — I think I saw some posters there on the way in — but I actually believe in the free market,” he said.

Obama asked the audience to encourage their members of Congress to act on his ideas to help “responsible” homeowners who need relief or Americans who hope to buy a house. He praised Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans, for their role in passing immigration reform in the U.S. Senate and called on Republican House members to stop dragging their feet and act on it, too.

While no program or policy can solve every housing problem, “if we take the steps that I talked about today, then I know we will restore not just our home values but also our common values,” Obama said. “We’ll make owning a home a symbol of responsibility, not speculation, a source of security for generations to come, just like it was for my grandparents. I want it to be just like that for all the young people who are here today and their children and their grandchildren.”

At least one of Obama’s fellow Democrats was cool to the idea of dismantling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“I think he’s right, but I think that we’re going to have to look at their role in this new environment and look at reforming them rather than replacing them,” said U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz. “I think there’s going to be a place for them in the future. The question is: What are they going to look like?”

Time in the Valley

When Air Force One arrived at Sky Harbor Airport, Obama was greeted on the tarmac by Brewer, Pastor and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

Brewer used the opportunity to remind Obama about her request for a federal disaster declaration related to this summer’s deadly Yarnell Hill Fire. The exchange appeared cordial, and, in a Twitter message, Brewer called the meeting positive.

Stanton delivered to Obama a letter from Tony Valdovinos, a “dreamer,” or young undocumented immigrant, who lives in Phoenix and is among the more than 400,000 young people who are now able to work in the United States as a result of the Obama administration’s deferred-action program.

Before the speech, Obama stopped at Erickson Construction Co. The company was established in 1975 by Phil Erickson, who worked as a framer in Phoenix. The company has grown and changed hands over the years, most recently being purchased by Atlas Holdings LLC of Greenwich, Conn., in 2012.

Obama, with his jacket off and shirtsleeves rolled up, toured the business’ home-framing assembly area. He asked questions of employees as he looked over plans. Erickson prebuilds wall panels for houses, rather than constructing frames from the ground up at home sites.

“Would this represent a single house or a bunch of different houses?” he was heard to ask.

Obama responded, “I got ya” after hearing that the plans were for multiple homes.

After the tour, the president traveled to Desert Vista High School.

His speech was not open to the general public. But that didn’t stop people from gathering near the school.

Early Tuesday morning, a lone protester waited for the president on the northern side of Desert Vista. Closer to the president’s arrival time, the demonstrators’ ranks had swelled to up to about 200 people.

Tim Ray, a West Valley resident, lost his home during the recession and said he was protesting the president’s handling of the housing crisis.

“They enacted all of these programs, and the president is going to talk about them, (but) they haven’t helped anyone,” Ray said. “We have a president speaking at a high school in an affluent neighborhood, and he’s not talking to people who have lost their homes.”

Inside the school’s gym, Rachel Clark, student-body president of Desert Vista, was one of five who greeted the president as he arrived. About 700 Desert Vista students attended the event.

Before she was whisked away to greet the president, Clark, a senior, said she intended to ask Obama to give a “shout-out” to Desert Vista when he appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno on Tuesday night. Obama was headed to Los Angeles to tape the NBC late-night program after his Phoenix appearance.

She also wanted to ask him how being president had changed his view of the world. “I’m a little nervous,” she said.

After the speech, Obama’s motorcade returned to Sky Harbor, and Air Force One was rolling down the runway by 2:04 p.m.

Republic reporters Laurie Merrill, Dianna M. Náñez, Ryan Randazzo, Mary K. Reinhart and Rebekah L. Sanders contributed to this article.

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