Over the last several years, the U.S. Economy has struggled to grow and create jobs for the American public. One main problem has been the strain the housing market has had on the economy. Many economists and housing analysts feel the government has not given this area the attention that it deserves.
Even though there has been a long list of federal programs designed to help American homeowners, these initiatives have produced marginal results as they have fallen far short of expectations.
The revised version of HARP or HARP 2.0? The mortgage refinance program re-released in mid-November also seems destined for under performance. The program caters only to homeowners with mortgages owned or insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Moreover, do not lose sight of the many borrowers who may refinance to low-interest rate mortgages, but still own homes with mortgage balances higher than the market value of their homes.
Massive Refinance Concept
The idea of a massive mortgage refinance plan to stimulate the American economy seems to have grown legs in recent days. The concept calls for the federal government to use its power over the Government-Sponsored Enterprises? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to create economic conditions for large-scale mortgage refinancing. This plan helps borrowers who do not have sufficient equity in their homes to refinance their mortgages under conventional requirements.
This in turn would stimulate “aggregate demand,” or the ability of consumers to spend the money they save, by refinancing to low interest rate mortgages, on other goods and services.
William C. Dudley, the current President and CEO of the New York Federal Reserve, advocates such an approach.
Dudley Outlines Plan for Housing Recovery
In a speech made at the New Jersey Bankers Association Economic Forum in Iselin, New Jersey, Dudley said the U.S. requires a "comprehensive approach" to providing support for the real estate market and stabilizing the economic foundation, which fuel recovery.
In the introductory portion of his remarks, Dudley stated the need for a “robust housing market matters for the wider economy." He went on to explained how the failure to resolve various risks in the housing market, not only keeps the market in a vulnerable state, longer than necessary, but also makes the market even more susceptible to further erosion.
Dudley outlined the various items needed for such a recovery, including consumer access to credit, removing obstacles hindering mortgage refinancing and slowing down the rate of foreclosures. In addition, underwater mortgages require principal reduction. Converting the excess supply of foreclosed homes into rental properties would alleviate the high inventory of homes, which continue to cast a shadow over home values.
Implementing Long-Term Solutions
Dudley points out his solutions attempt to “resolve legal and incentive issues” pervasive within the current housing market. Furthermore, according to Dudley, the policies try to duplicate what normally happens in the private market if the mortgages made up a loan portfolio. He believes it is important to consider certain conditions and facts to generate the best solutions for the nation.
In addition, any long-term approach would have to include overhauling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to put the housing industry on a long and sustain path to recovery.
Critics of a massive refinancing scheme fear the negative impact the proposal would have on the mortgage bond market. Many believe it would only result in a “dollar- for- dollar offset. In other words, any money saved by borrowers refinancing their mortgages, mortgage bond investors would lose in interest payments, which reduces spending in other areas.
However, not everyone agrees with that assessment because government, institutional, or foreign investors own over 55% of mortgage-backed securities on the market. These entities are less likely to cut spending on goods and services because they receive less interest on mortgage bond investments.
Consumers who can refinance to low-interest rate mortgages free up money to support consumption in other areas. In the end, this has a positive effect on housing prices, household wealth, and consumer confidence.
Dudley states what has been obvious for several years; the country needs an all-inclusive policy to resolve issues created by the housing crisis. The solution must stabilize home values and provide a foundation for recovery of the entire economy.