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Housing Expert Forum: What are the most pressing issues in housing policy today?

Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month contributors from different parts of the housing sector will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts will feature prominently on BPC’s website, as well as be shared with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work.

Have a pressing question you’d like us to consider? Please leave it in the comments section. We encourage you and our expert bloggers to add comments, contributing to the national dialogue on solutions for the future of the housing sector.

Expert bloggers are not members of the BPC Housing Commission. Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Housing Commission, its Co-Chairs, or the Bipartisan Policy Center.

What are the most pressing issues in housing policy today?

Guest Expert

Setting Consistent and Achievable Goals

By Mark A. Calabria

While a variety of challenges continue to plague our housing markets, foremost being the imbalance between supply and demand, housing policy, as distinct from housing market dynamics, is suffering a more fundamental problem. That problem is a basic confusion, if not outright contradiction, in its objectives. Having tried to be everything to everyone, our nation’s housing policies have all too often worked in conflict. Before we can hope to have effective policies, we need to have clear, consistent and achievable goals.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?


By Conrad Egan

The most pressing issue about housing policy TODAY is the urgent need to think about the housing policy of the FUTURE.

A significant contribution to “FUTURETHINK” was made recently by the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University when the released a report and presentation in October, 2011, entitled “Housing the Region’s Future Workforce.”

The key findings are that “The types of housing that will be needed to accommodate new workers over the next 20 years reflects the changing demographics of the working age population and the mix of jobs the region is expecting. Thus, over 60 percent of the new housing units needed in the region over the next two decades will be multi-family while less than 40 percent will be single family. The region’s current housing stock, by contrast, is 67 percent single-family and 33 percent multifamily.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?

Future of the Secondary Market: To Be Determined

By Kevin Igoe

The most serious issue in housing policy today is the lack of certainty regarding the secondary mortgage finance market and the regulatory parameters in which it will operate.

Investors hate making decisions in a vacuum of information. Looking at the secondary mortgage market three years, five years or more into the future yields a murky view into the crystal ball.

The macro philosophical question is what role, if any, should government play in the housing market and secondary mortgage market. The biggest part of this question hangs over the GSE’s. The future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must be defined.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?

Developing New Housing Options for Changing Population

By Bill Kelly

Our work at SAHF centers on affordable multifamily housing, so I will leave it to others to focus on the foreclosure crisis.

In the everyday world, our low and moderate income citizens simply cannot afford rents in most markets, the supply of affordable apartments is declining, and the search for affordable rents drives transportation costs to claim increasing shares of household income. Wage bifurcation in our society means that, at least in the foreseeable future, more and more Americans will have incomes that cannot support rents high enough to pay operating costs and debt service. Meanwhile, only about a quarter of income-eligible Americans receive housing assistance.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?

Preparing for Major Shifts in Demand

By Jeffrey Lubell

The punch line of my response is that the most pressing issues of housing policy today are not necessarily the most pressing issues of the medium- or long-term future. We have an obligation to work to resolve today’s pressing issues. But it’s critical that we start thinking now about how to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Waiting will only drive up costs and reduce options.

In the short-term, the foreclosure crisis and related challenges of neighborhood stabilization, large REO inventories, and underwater homeowners all loom large as critical issues to address. The housing finance system is struggling, restricting the availability of credit?a problem policymakers are threatening to worsen by raising down payment standards despite good evidence from a UNC study showing that low-down payment loans can be made safely to moderate-income families if properly underwritten.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?

Uncertainty 4.0

By Brian Montgomery

The noted science fiction writer Ursula K. LeGuin might have been referring to the present day when she opined that “the only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”


With all due respect to Ms. LeGuin, I think most of us have had enough intolerable uncertainty, at least when it comes to the state of our economy.


Markets and people hate uncertainty?especially in a prolonged circumstance. Short of a multitude of national disasters or, heaven forbid, another attack on our soil, there is no other singular issue that is negatively impacting almost every American family like our stagnant and uncertain economy?fueled in large part by the nagging housing crisis. A crisis, I would add, that has many sub-sets.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?

Achieving Market Sustainability

By Rebalance Housing Policies

By Barbara Sard

The most pressing issue is the need for a balanced housing policy that provides suitable choices for renting as well as owning one’s home. Renters can move more easily to follow job opportunities or adjust to changes in household size or income, and they aren’t burdened by maintenance responsibilities or at risk of unpredictable expenses for home repairs. Changes in the labor market and the aging of the population are likely to increase the demand for rental housing over the long term, even after the housing market stabilizes.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?

Jobs and Housing: Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Dennis Shea

The most pressing issue in housing today is the persistently high unemployment rate. Job loss has helped fuel the foreclosure crisis, prevented households from refinancing their mortgages to take advantage of today’s historically low mortgage rates, contributed to the dramatic decline in home prices and new home construction, and helped make rental housing increasingly unaffordable for low- and moderate-income households. A significant and sustained drop in the unemployment rate?remember it hovered around 4.6% before the financial collapse began in 2007?would work miracles for the housing sector.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?

Frank Talk About Housing Policy Issues From Home Ownership to Home Retention

By Frank J. Vaccarella

The past decade was noted for federal strategies to increase homeownership. However, since the “Great Recession,” governmental policies have shifted focus from increasing homeownership to home retention by owners. The following offers some insights into this policy shift and to better understand the need to place more emphasis on the human aspect of homeownership and need for improved, consistent national home retention strategies.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert?

Congress and Obama Administration Must Act to Stimulate Housing Recovery

By Joseph M. Ventrone

It’s no secret our nation’s housing markets remain depressed and continue to suffer. While no one thought the crisis would carry on so long, markets are slowly recovering and are in need of immediate policy solutions to address the myriad challenges in order to stabilize housing and support an economic recovery. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has long maintained that the key to the nation’s economic strength is a robust housing industry.

Read the full post here.

Guest Expert??

The Numbers Behind the Foreclosure Process

By Paul S. Willen

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not indicate concurrence by other members of the research staff or the principals of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

There are many pressing issues in housing today and there are many policy tools at our disposal, but the two share little ground: there are very few pressing issues in housing where policy can make a difference. The problem of long foreclosure timelines is one of the few. Research shows that the glacial pace of foreclosure resolution does little to benefit homeowners and exacts a substantial cost on communities. Unfortunately, many current policies slow the foreclosure process without preventing any foreclosures.

Read the full post here.

2011-12-14 00:00:00

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