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Kerry Vs Bush; What Does it Mean to Mortgage Industry?

A look at where presidential candidates stand on issues impacting industry

May 17, 2003

By PATRICK CROWLEY


When viewed through the prism of a presidential campaign, the mortgage industry is either booming or suffering.

President George Bush -- during a March 26 speech in New Mexico -- said record homeownership, low interest rates and new programs to spur buying means "the more people who own their home, the better off America is."

But citing Bush's "misguided housing policies" on his campaign Web site, Democrat John Kerry sees a mortgage market damaged by "foreclosure and mortgage delinquency rates (that) are higher now than when President Bush took office."

"That's not progress," sneered Andrew Cuomo -- Bill Clinton's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development -- on Kerry's campaign site. "It's a mirage. Home ownership may be up, but so are foreclosures and bankruptcies."

The expansion of home ownership is a presidential year issue being closely watched by the mortgage industry.

While the economy has been a political liability for Bush's campaign, there's no disputing that homeownership is at an all time high of 68 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"More people own home now than ever before," Bush said during the New Mexico speech.

More than 1.5 million minority families are homeowners, "and for the first time ever, more than half of minority households own their own homes."

Bush supported and signed the American Dream Downpayment Act, under which up to $200 million will be allocated to down payment assistance for low income buyers.

And Bush backs the Zero Downpayment Act. It would eliminate the federally mandated minimum 3 percent downpayment for Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loans for single-family first time home buyers.

"A practical way to help people, first-time home buyers is to make zero down payment loans possible," Bush said.

But his plans have their critics.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition said in a statement that "a complete look at the president's housing initiatives shows a history of disregard for the housing situations of working families."

For instance, the Washington-based coalition claims that while Bush requested $200 million under the American Dream Downpayment Act, Congress has only allocated $162.3 million over two years.

"If the Act were truly a priority for the President, he could have weighed in with Congress and pushed for a full funding each year," the coalition said.

The coalition, which is tied to the apartment industry, also has said the zero downpayment act does eliminate the downpayment on FHA homes. But buyers are also required to pay more insurance to cut the risk of the loan.

Kerry also piles on, but at least on this issue the Democrat appears to be more critical than proactive.

His plan for housing seems to be rooted in improving the overall economy, which in turn would spur more housing.

In Kerry's signature economic plan posted on his Web site, he talks of balancing the budget, cutting taxes for the middle class, investing in new technologies and economies and "streamlining government and eliminating special tax giveaways for the privileged and special interests."

Kerry said his plan -- particularly reducing the deficit that has swelled since Bush took office -- will lead to lower interest rates, which are good for homeowners and the mortgage industry.

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