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Housing Policy

Housing Cheat Sheet for State of the Union

By Paula Pant | January 24, 2012
Leading up to the 2012 elections, here are 4 hot topics that matter most to the state of housing in America.

President Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union address to the nation tonight. It will tell us where Obama thinks he’s succeeded and fallen short. It will also set the tone for how he will fight in the election. I’ll be watching to see what he does (and doesn’t!) say about housing.

Specifically, here’s what I’m looking for:

1) Will Obama be upbeat or downbeat about the market? On the plus side, sales and construction are rising and inventory is falling. On the minus side, prices keep slipping and a foreclosure wave is coming. Which story will Obama tell?

2) Which policies – planned, coming or surprises — will Obama talk about? Will we hear about:

The robo-signing settlement

Expanded refinancing through HARP

Sale or rental of government-owned homes (REO-to-rental)

Changes to the mortgage interest deduction

Changes to conforming loan limits for Fannie/Freddie/FHA

–The future of Fannie and Freddie

–Or something else?

3) How will Obama sell his housing ideas to the public? Will he tackle the tough questions about:

–Who pays for housing policies – Taxpayers? Banks? Investors?

–The “heads I win, tails you lose” problem: how will he sell policies that reward bad choices that some homeowners, banks and agencies made?

4) Will Obama make housing a partisan issue? Housing is a bipartisan issue. Trulia’s survey of consumers shows that most Democrats AND most Republicans want the government to support homeownership and want to see more action on housing (full survey results here). But the Republican presidential candidates have shied away from housing policy. Will Obama use housing to attack the Republican candidates?

Stayed tuned – I’ll be giving my take on his speech tomorrow.