Friday, December 14, 2012

Moynihan: Don't push homeownership for all

As a lesson from the mortgage meltdown, lenders and the federal government shouldn't push homeownership as a universal goal, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said at the Brookings Future of Homeownership Forum this morning in Washington D.C.

Instead, he said the focus should be on what makes the most sense in individual cases -- both for families now struggling to keep their homes and for people considering buying houses in the future.

"As we think about the future of the housing system, how does everything we have learned during the crisis and recovery apply?" Moynihan said, according to his prepared remarks. "It underscores the need to shape a system that keeps borrowers out of the situation of owning a home and not being able to afford it. It means shifting the conversation from what percentage of Americans own homes to what is the right solution at the right time for each individual or family."

Moynihan said the housing market recovery is now progressing. Home prices and demand are up, and delinquencies are declining. Thousands of borrowers have been able to get mortgage modifications to help them keep their homes.

But he said that re-default rates are still high. He noted that out of the bank's 270,000 employees, about 50,000 were dealing with delinquent mortgages.

Moynihan said that at this point, the problem is not a lack of programs to help people. It's the still-stagnant economy.

"Important to the housing recovery is letting the process continue to move forward," he said. "To help customers get to the right solution even if that means transitioning to rental."

Going forward, he encouraged homeowners, lenders and federal agencies to "reset" their thinking.

Homeowners should view buying a house as securing a safe place to live knowing the risks, not a way to make a profit, he said.

"A roof over one’s head doesn't always have to come with mortgage debt," Moynihan said. "And in many cases shouldn't."

Lenders should still make ample credit available, but safeguard against giving mortgages to people who can't afford the payments. Down payments don't necessarily need to be 20 percent, but perhaps 10 percent -- and certainly not zero.

And government programs like the Federal Housing Administration should focus on their mission of helping low- to moderate-income people buy homes, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on aiding liquidity -- instead of dominating the mortgage market.

"Now is our chance to reset. Now is our chance to move past recrimination and move toward solutions," he said. "Now is our chance to put lessons learned to use and put our housing finance system on a more sustainable path."


Anonymous said...

There are some folks out there that are not eligible for a mortgage. About time a Bank President says that since they are saddled with property that they are having to sell at a giveaway.

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone speaks the truth

Anonymous said...

Finally their is some rationality on the subject of home ownership. It is not a right to own a home. It is a priviledge, and it should only be available to hard working individuals who have worked enough to come up with a down payment, and who have a good credit rating and a good job. Where I think that Moynihan is dead wrong is on the down payment. A minimum of a 20% downpayment should be a LAW, period. That alone will limit most problems. Also I do not want my tax money subsidizing the mortgage market. The worst thing that ever happened was the FHA and Fannie/Freddie. Either you can afford a home or you can't. If you can't, then go get a second job until you can.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the previous comment. I believe that affordable mortgage lending can and should be provided to those "hard working individuals" even if they may not be able to afford 20% down (teachers and state employees who live paycheck to paycheck). I believe it is a disgrace to limit home ownership to the affluent or charge low income families additional fees to buy a home (PMI). This is where Credit Unions can truly make a difference in individuals lives. They should provide quality service, reasonable interest rates, and promote thrift. This is unusual within most of the financial world.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree! Home ownership is not for everyone, so the government should stop trying to pretend that it is and fix the problem!