Cities Freaking Out Over The Fact That Government Housing Intervention Might End One Day

Foreclosure Stockton

Photo: AP

The government’s response to the housing bust has been to double down on the same policies that got us into trouble in the first place.Since the crash, there’s been a push to make money even cheaper, and to expand programs that allow people with little money to buy homes.

Shockingly, considering how ugly the housing market remains, these efforts have probably mitigated economic pain somewhat.

And as such, there’s already a freakout over the possibility that the government will withdraw its support measures.

The New York Times profiles Elkhart, Indiana, a city Obama has already visited twice.

A few years ago, only one in 10 buyers in Elkhart used the housing agency program. Now about half do. Across the country, the agency has greatly expanded its reach so that it now insures six million mortgages.

“There has been all kinds of help for housing. I’m not unappreciative,” said Barb Swartley, president of the Elkhart County Board of Realtors. “But you can’t turn real estate into a government-sponsored operation forever.”

So, what kinds of buyers in Elkhart are taking advantage of government largesse?

The programs favour first-time buyers, who have the fewest resources to bring to a deal. Heather Stevens, a 23-year-old nurse here, is closing on a three-bedroom house this week. Since her loan was insured by the Federal Housing Administration, she had to put down only 3.5 per cent of the $74,900 purchase price.

“It was a breeze to get approved,” she said.

The sellers are covering her closing costs, which agents say is often the case here. That meant Ms. Stevens had to come up with only the $2,600 down payment, which still took all her savings.

But the best part is the $7,500 tax credit. She will use that to remodel the kitchen. “If it wasn’t for the credit, we would have waited to buy,” said Ms. Stevens, who is getting married this year.

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