Capital Insights with Jack Kern

Homeownership is a hot button issue politically. Recently, the four horsemen of HUD, secretaries Alphonso Jackson, Henry Cisneros, Jack Kemp and Moon Landrieu were together for a session at the Fall ULI Conference in Miami. As the discussion turned to housing needs and the concept of the suitability of homeownership for anyone so inclined, the secretaries, in one form or another claimed that the issues now facing the housing markets were politically motivated, corrupt practices in the mortgage industry, uninformed buyers or others that preyed on unsuspecting borrowers. They also suggested in some fashion that HUD was an essential tool in helping families obtain their first homes.

I say, let's lobby congress by telling the next administration to abolish HUD.

Nothing personal guys, but what I didn't hear and what no one seemed willing to acknowledge is that we need a non-politically oriented housing policy that is balanced and recognizes the value in quality, safe and responsive housing for the needs of every segment of society. Renter occupied housing is now more than one third of the nation's housing stock, and in some cities and certainly some segments, much higher. To continue to favor the policy line about homeownership does a disservice not only to those working hard to provide rental housing across the nation, but also to the millions of  homeowners in all income brackets, who worked hard to buy and maintain their primary residences. Excessive homeownership contributed to the mortgage madness that began the economic slide we're seeing now. A future policy of continuing to support buyer initiatives, some of which are being pushed by the powerful homeowner and builder lobbies in Washington, DC is not the answer.

So let me ask you, Alphonso, Henry, Jack and Moon:
1. Where were you when the problems started to emerge?
2. Why did HUD never publicly acknowledge, until now, that it lacks the will to formulate balanced policy?
3. How is it that we've never seen a clear public accounting of the corruption at HUD under your watch?

I've met many people who lost their homes to foreclosures, and know even more now in trouble. They don't need new loans, they need affordable and reasonably adequate housing and a safe neighborhood for their families. Any additional nonsense policies that will put even more unfortunate people at risk is simply not warranted. Misery cuts across all boundaries and income divides, and if the four horsemen have their way, we're going to be bailing out failed borrowers for next 20 years.

Let's not let that happen.