Bush vs. Kerry on housing,
By Holden Lewis Bankrate.com
On issues of housing and mortgages, there are clear differences
between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Bush pushes homeownership,
especially among minorities. Kerry emphasizes providing decent
and affordable rental housing.
In terms of campaign contributions, Bush is
overwhelmingly the favorite candidate of real estate agents,
mortgage bankers and brokers, and home builders.
The centerpiece of Bush's housing policy is
an effort to increase homeownership among minorities. In June
2002 he announced a plan to increase minority homeownership
by 5.5 million families by 2010. Since then, the number of minority
homeowners has increased by 1.6 million, according to Alphonso
Jackson, housing secretary.
This year the homeownership rate among African
Americans is expected to reach 50 percent for the first time,
up from 46.5 percent in the second quarter of 2002, when Bush
announced the policy. In that time, the Hispanic homeownership
rate has risen from 46.1 percent to 47.4 percent.
Bush talks about this in his stump speech.
"In changing times, ownership can bring stability to your
lives," he said Sept. 13 in Holland, Mich. "One of
the great statistics of the last couple of years is the homeownership
rate is at an all-time high in America. We got a plan to continue
homeownership in America. I love the fact when people from all
walks of life can open up the door where they're living and
say, 'Welcome to my home. Welcome to my piece of property.'"
The Bush administration has pursued this housing
goal in two ways: by making it easier to buy a home with a low
down payment, and by threatening to punish FHA lenders that
foreclose too eagerly.
In December, Bush signed the American Dream
Downpayment Initiative, a program that provides grants to low-income
home buyers to pay their down payments and closing costs. This
year he proposed the Zero Downpayment Initiative, which would
allow the Federal Housing Administration to insure mortgages
with no down payments; current law requires a down payment of
at least 3 percent. That bill didn't get out of its House committee
because congressional leaders didn't have time to resolve conflicting
estimates of the cost before election season got into full swing.
The Bush administration has tried to cut down
on foreclosures by requiring lenders of FHA-insured loans to
try to work things out with borrowers who fall behind on their
payments. If lenders don't make enough of an effort, they can
be cut off from the FHA program.
The administration tried, but failed, to reform
the mortgage-lending process when it proposed broad changes
in the way it would enforce the Real Estate Settlement Procedures
Act, or RESPA. The reform proposal would have forced mortgage
lenders and brokers to simplify the mortgage loan process and
guarantee closing costs. It would have benefited borrowers at
the expense of some lenders and settlement service providers.
Under pressure from the mortgage, title insurance, real estate
and settlement services industries, the Department of Housing
and Urban Development withdrew the proposal last spring. Jackson,
the head of HUD, says he plans to reintroduce a modified RESPA
reform proposal after consulting industry groups.
While Bush's policy proposals have been friendly
to people who can afford monthly mortgage payments, they haven't
been so generous to the poor. Bush wants to cut the Section
8 housing voucher program, which provides help to 2 million
renters, by $1 billion at a time when it would need to be increased
by $600 million to maintain its caseload. Kerry calls it a "cost-cutting
gimmick that will hurt American families."
Whereas Bush cultivates support among homeowners
while spurning those who need rental vouchers, Kerry does the
opposite. Kerry doesn't mention housing in his stump speech.
On the Kerry campaign Web site, the page that highlights his
housing record focuses mostly on programs for low-income renters,
with little mention of policies to help middle-class homeowners.
Kerry boasts of helping to craft and pass
the Multifamily Assisted Housing Restructuring and Reform Act
of 1997, "which helped save the government billions of
dollars in rental assistance payments, preserved thousands of
affordable rental apartments, and helped finance the rehabilitation
of those apartments," the campaign says.
It adds that Kerry helped reform the public
and manufactured housing programs, as well as co-sponsoring
or offering amendments to other affordable-housing legislation
while he sat on the Senate's housing subcommittee. One unpassed
bill would have funded development of affordable rental housing;
another would have encouraged construction and rehabilitation
of houses in economically distressed areas so low- and moderate-income
families could own them; another would have let home buyers
borrow, tax free, from individual retirement accounts to make
The Kerry campaign calls for federal laws
to ban predatory mortgage lending: limiting high prepayment
penalties, restricting balloon payments, capping points and
fees on subprime mortgages, and banning single-premium mortgage
When it comes to contributions from employees of housing-related
corporations, Bush is the hands-down winner. According to information
compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Bush has raised
$10.9 million from employees and political action committees
of the real estate, home building, and mortgage industries.
Kerry has raised $2.9 million from those industries.
The disparity is especially great among home
builders, from whom Bush holds more than an 11-to-1 fund-raising
edge over Kerry. Thirteen of the top 20 contributors from the
home-building industry gave 100 percent of their political contributions
Among the all-Republican contributors are
employees of Perry Homes, whose chief executive, Bob J. Perry,
was the main source of money for Swift Boat Veterans for the
Truth. His $100,000 contribution to that group doesn't count
among his donations to Republican politicians, including $2,000
to Bush. His wife, Doylene, also gave $2,000 to Bush.
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