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."
"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."