The Wall Street Journal ran the story last week: “U.S. Now a Renters’ Market.” Apartment vacancies hit a 30-year high in the last quarter of 2009, and rents are falling in most markets. For current or former homeowners trying to stumble out of the debris left from the government-fueled housing bubble, a renter-friendly environment is a positive opportunity.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan recently gave a speech in New York in which he spoke of a “new direction in housing.” If there’s one constant with cabinet secretaries, it’s that they all promise that their department will be new and improved. The following are a few of Donovan’s lines that deserve comment.
A New York Times report on the Federal Housing Administration’s subsidies for higher-priced real estate reveals the insanity of federal housing policies. The 2008 stimulus package signed by President Bush temporarily doubled the maximum loan the FHA insured to $729,750 on single-family homes. Coverage on multi-family units can exceed $1 million.
The HUD Inspector General’s Office released an audit earlier this week on the department’s progress in making sure local public housing agencies aren’t subsidizing the deceased. According to the report, local “agencies made an estimated $15.2 million in payments on behalf of deceased tenants that they should have identified and corrected.”
I haven’t followed the controversies surrounding Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama. However, her tenure as the CEO of a company that received federal money to run a public housing project deserves further scrutiny.
According to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Federal Housing Administration has “revived” the subprime segment of the housing market. Thanks to FHA lending, “the share of borrowers with FICO credit scores lower than 660 has returned to just higher than 20 percent, the same share as when subprime securitization peaked in 2006.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the IRS is investigating 100,000 “suspicious” tax returns over possibly fraudulent claims of home buyer tax credits. Included in the economic stimulus package in February, the $8,000 tax credits were set to expire at the end of November, but the housing lobby is pressing Congress for an extension.