Henry Cisneros: Economic Recovery Requires Robust Housing Sector

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Historically, the housing sector has led the country from the depths of recession to economic recovery.  Today, it is hard to imagine housing playing this role. Millions of families have lost their most treasured asset to foreclosure, trillions of dollars in home equity has vanished, new home construction is at historic lows, rental costs are increasing as incomes have lagged, and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens who depend upon government housing assistance will bear the brunt of federal budget cuts.

Despite all this bad news, I am still convinced that housing is the key to our economic recovery. We will not get the economy back on track without a robust housing sector that is supported by a strong and stable system of housing finance. As I like to tell people, this is a mathematically predictable fact.

This moment of crisis gives us the opportunity to do some rethinking. What is the appropriate role of the government in housing? How do we best ensure access to mortgage credit? Which federal housing programs work, which ones can be improved, and which ones don’t measure up? These are just some of the questions that the BPC Housing Commission will attempt to answer.

BPC’s Debt Reduction Task Force, of which I am a member, stated that America presently faces two huge challenges: recovery from the recession and restraining the soaring federal debt. As a Commission we stated that these two challenges must be addressed simultaneously, and as an individual, I believe that housing reform is instrumental to our being able to tackling these duel challenges. My continued experience with the Debt Task Force has given me a strong, successful foundation on which to base this new Commission.

I am honored to be joined in this effort by a group of very distinguished Americans, my fellow co-chairs Mel Martinez, Kit Bond, and George Mitchell. All of us have experience in the housing sector – and, yes, some strong opinions -- but each of us is committed to go where the facts lead us. Our goal is to develop a set of thoughtful, well-grounded recommendations on how best to fix our housing finance system and how most effectively to deploy limited government resources in support of our nation’s housing policy objectives. Whether Democrat or Republican, we are all motivated by the same concern – to make our country a better place.

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