Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting with senior officials at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Now, I say “pleasure” because it appears that the folks at the Treasury Department are finally turning their attention to how they might use some of the $700 billion from that “rescue” package to stimulate housing.
I spoke with them at length about the possibility of buying down interest rates so that homeownership can be more affordable for potential buyers and current homeowners. Those of you who read NAR’s economist commentaries will know that, despite lowering the Fed Funds rate, mortgage rates have not budged. That’s a problem for potential buyers looking for low-cost mortgage credit. Buying down interest rates would help provide more affordable financing for potential buyers and homeowners. Economists at the Treasury said the same thing.
There’s just one problem: according to the Treasury, it’s not clear whether the legislation that was passed in October gives them the authority to buy-down mortgages. They need Congress to clarify the authority, and that could be a tough sell, given the concerns about the rescue package.
In recent days, the debate over the “rescue” bill has shifted to the automobile industry. We MUST continue to raise our voice to ensure that the housing market remains a top priority during the lame-duck session of Congress. If you haven’t already responded to our call for action on the Four-Point Plan, please do so. Show them that REALTORS and consumers are “United Toward Tomorrow.” — Charles McMillan, 2009 NAR President