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Removing homeowner benefits is counterproductive

When candidates for public office support the elimination of modification of certain homeownership benefits as a cost-cutting means, that action could cost them the election.

Several recent studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of consumers (voters) strongly value homeownership and would oppose efforts to weaken or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction or diminish a federal role to help qualified homebuyers obtain affordable 30-year mortgages.

One such study was a nationwide survey gauging likely voters’ attitudes toward homeownership and housing policy issues. The National Association of Home Builders commissioned the survey.

“The American electorate is sending a clear message that owning a home remains a cornerstone of the American dream and preserving a federal commitment to homeownership is essential to maintain a thriving middle class and get housing and the economy back on track,” said Neil Newhouse, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, the firm that conducted the study.

The poll shows that three out of four voters – both owners and renters – believe it is appropriate and reasonable for the federal government to provide tax incentives to promote homeownership. This sentiment cuts across regional and party lines, with 84 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of Independents agreeing with this statement.

About 73 percent of voters oppose eliminating the mortgage interest deduction. These figures held firm across the political spectrum, with 77 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Independents against doing away with the mortgage interest deduction.

Meanwhile, 68 percent would be less likely to vote for a congressional candidate who proposed to abolish the deduction, a figure that was virtually identical across all party affiliations (69 percent of Independents and 68 percent of Democrats and Republicans).

Q: When will the housing recovery really take hold?

A: There are strong indicators in today’s market that the housing recovery is beginning to blossom, according to industry experts. While admitting home sales are “still very low,” the chief economist at Capital Economics says it is clear the housing recovery is now well under way.

The evidence: Home sales have been on the rise for the past three months, posting a 5 percent increase in December, according to the latest market study released by the National Association of Realtors.

Q: What impact do record-low mortgage rates have on our housing market?

A: Today’s low and stable mortgage rates and a modestly improving economy are starting to produce positive effects on the nation’s housing market, according to a report on HSH.com.

“While starting from extraordinarily low levels and though improvements are still tenuous, there have been accumulating signs of improvement for months. If the economy can continue to nudge forward for a while longer without some new catastrophe to derail it, we just might have ourselves a housing market worth talking about when spring rolls around,” the report stated.

Q: What does the Homeownership Preservation Foundation do?

A: As described on its website, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation is a network of nonprofits that helps distressed homeowners navigate their budget challenges by providing specific actions steps and, whenever possible, helping them to avoid foreclosure. And best of all, they do it for free.

“Since 2007, HPF has served more than 5 million homeowners, an average of 5,500 people each day, who depend on us as a trusted, neutral source of information and assistance. Although we are an independent organization, we are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies,” the HPF site noted.

Q: Are consumer attitudes improving?

A: Americans’ attitudes on a variety of issues are marginally better than one month ago, according to results from Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey. Despite overall low levels of optimism among Americans, consumer sentiments are trending in a positive direction.

“December attitudes have rebounded from the lows seen during the debt-ceiling debate and economic deterioration of Europe this past summer,” said Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae.

According to Duncan, “there is marked improvement in consumer sentiment regarding the direction of the economy, personal finances and future home price expectations. This improvement is in line with the modest fourth-quarter pickup in the U.S. economy.”

WOODARD has been writing about real estate news and trends since 1971 and is the resident storyteller at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

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