Here’s the housing story (or lack thereof) of the 2016 election


Well America, we made it.

We survived the most ridiculous, insane, over-the-top, depressing, and ultimately underwhelming campaign in modern political history and we made it.

It’s #ElectionDay.

As our fellow Americans go to the polls today to cast their votes for our next president, it’s important to look back at how exactly we got here.

And considering that we focus on housing here at HousingWire (hence the name), we felt it important to look at how housing mattered (actually it didn’t) in this election cycle.

So, with all due respect to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, let’s focus on the two candidates with an actual chance of becoming our next president, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Each of the major party candidates discussed housing in some form or fashion during the seemingly interminable run-up to today’s vote, but the issue of housing wasn’t really a topic that got the social media echo chamber all riled up, so Trump and Clinton never really talked about it, especially not in the debates.

In each of the three major debates, the Republican and Democratic nominees spent much more time talking about emails, taxes, and lots of issues that seem to matter, but don’t actually matter.

There was a teeny bit of housing discussion during the first debate, covered here by our Kelsey Ramírez.

During the first debate, the topic of whether Donald Trump “rooted for the real estate crash” or not came up.

That was the topic of an early ad from the Clinton campaign, using Trump’s own words against him.

In the ad, a recording of Trump from 2006, reportedly taken from materials from his failed Trump University, states that he “sort of hopes (a crash) happens because then people like me would go in and buy…if there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know, you could make a lot of money.”

But as I said before the last debate, sadly, discussions of rising rents and tight credit boxes don’t make for good television. The candidates ended up doing just what we all thought they would, wallowing in the mud rather than talking about anything of worth.

That’s not to say that both major candidates didn’t broach housing at points during their campaigns.

Way back in February (which seems like a million years ago based on how this campaign has gone), Hillary Clinton released a sweeping economic agenda that includes some major housing reforms.

Clinton’s plan, which her campaign billed as the “$125 billion Economic Revitalization Initiative,” includes programs designed to “create good-paying jobs, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and connect housing to opportunity in communities that are being left out and left behind.”

Part of Clinton’s $125 billion program is a $25 billion housing investment program that aims to “lift more families into sustainable homeownership,” by offering down payment assistance, increasing housing counseling programs, expanding beyond traditional credit scores, building more affordable rental housing, clarifying lending rules and other changes.

Clinton’s campaign states that the $25 billion housing investment program targets the blight that is still dragging down many communities, addresses “skyrocketing” rents that are impacting the country’s working families, and the “barriers” that prevent many families from becoming homeowners.

While Trump himself was light in the stated plan for housing department, the Republican Party platform included several significant potential changes to the country’s housing finance system.

The Republican Party platform calls the government to play far less of a role in housing than it does currently.

“We must scale back the federal role in the housing market, promote responsibility on the part of borrowers and lenders and avoid future taxpayer bailouts,” the Republican platform states.

“Reforms should provide clear and prudent underwriting standards and guidelines on predatory lending and acceptable lending practices,” the platform continues. “Compliance with regulatory standards should constitute a legal safe harbor to guard against opportunistic litigation by trial lawyers.”

The Republicans also call for a “comprehensive” review of federal regulations, “especially those dealing with the environment,” that make it “harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.”

One of Trump’s major talking points throughout his campaign has been the prevalence of regulations and the impact of those regulations on the economy.

On many occasions during the campaign, Trump spoke of enacting a moratorium on new regulations as one his first moves if elected.

In early August, Trump laid out his economic plan while speaking in Detroit.

During that speech, Trump said he plans to ask each Federal authority to create a list of regulations that aren’t needed and ones that “kill jobs.” According to Trump, those regulations will be eliminated quickly.

Another of those occasions was during an August appearance before the National Association of Home Builders, during which Trump told the crowd of builders that he wants to help them deal with the current “horrible” regulatory environment.

“What’s happening with regulations is horrible. You’re being driven wild with regulations,” Trump told the homebuilders.

“In the last five years, regulations on homebuilding have increased 29%,” Trump said in April. “I was told this stat. I couldn’t even believe it. Twenty-five percent of your total cost to build a house is in regulations – your leader told me that. I couldn’t even believe it.”

Trump told the crowd that not only did he want to freeze any new regulations, he also said that he wanted to roll back many existing ones as well.

“There’s no industry, other than probably the energy industry that is more overregulated than the housing industry,” Trump said. “Twenty-five percent of costs to build a house are regulations. I think we should get that down to 2%.”

Trump’s ability to roll back those regulations could, of course, be limited depending on the party breakdown of the House and Senate, but there is currently a bill under consideration in Congress that gives some insight into what the Republican-dominated legislative and executive branches could mean for the economy.

The Financial CHOICE Act, introduced earlier this year by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX, would replace Dodd-Frank with a “pro-growth, pro-consumer” alternative that would end “too-big-to-fail bailouts, bring significant reforms to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and provide some regulatory relief for certain financial institutions.

The bill is still set to be considered by the full House, but even if it is passed during the current term, President Obama would certainly veto the bill.

(For much more on that bill, click here.)

But under President Trump, could the Republicans push a similar bill through Congress? Again, it depends on the breakdown of Congress, but it’s certainly possible.

Now, as far as advancing any sort of agenda goes, the same can be said of a Clinton administration.

Sure, Clinton talked a good game about increasing homeownership and helping ease skyrocketing rents, but as with Trump, her ability to actually do anything about it is dependent on the majority party controlling Congress.

And with as divisive and combative as politics has become this year, it’s a fairly safe bet that there won’t be a great wave of bipartisanship once the new president takes the oath of office in January.

It certainly would have been nice to hear substantive housing discussions along the campaign trail. But that wasn’t what this tabloid-riddled dumpster fire of a campaign was about. There’s nothing salacious about housing, even though it’s arguably the most important issue that each of us face.

What’s more important than being able to afford a place to live and hopefully being able to use that place to build some wealth for yourself and your family?

But that’s not how our national political system works now. It’s not built for nuanced discussions. It’s about headlines.

In spite of that, there are real housing problems that it would be nice to see our government address, as the John Dalton, the former Secretary of the Navy and former president of Ginnie Mae, wrote earlier this year.

Dalton, writing for HousingWire, identified five questions that our next president needs to answer in regards to our housing system:

1. How will taxpayers be protected in a future system?

2. How will private capital be brought into the current system?

3. How will the new system enable consistent sources of credit for consumers through the 30-year fixed rate mortgage and similar stable products?

4. What will the transition be from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to a new system?

5. How will you build on efforts currently underway to expand credit risk sharing, utilize a common securitization platform and move toward a single security for the secondary market?

That’s just a start. There’s plenty more that needs to be addressed, and maybe, just maybe, after the fervor of this election has died down, some actual work can get done in Washington.

Ah, who are we kidding? This is Washington we’re talking about here!

And that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of non-elected personnel who are working hard in Washington to fix this country’s problems.

I met some of them last week in D.C. when I went to a housing summit hosted by the Urban Institute and CoreLogic. Believe it or not, there are people in our government ready and willing to help if the politicians would just get out of the way.

But I was struck by the reality of our political climate, especially when it comes to housing, as I walked out of the Newseum and back onto Pennsylvania Avenue last Wednesday afternoon.

As I left the housing summit, two of the summit’s attendees were chatting on the street.

“So what are you doing after this,?” one asked the other.

“I’m going to the Hill to meet on GSE reform,” the attendee told their counterpart.

“Ah, the never-ending discussion,” the first attendee said with a chuckle.

Then they both laughed.

Housing finance reform, a laughing matter indeed.

But hey, there’s always hope for the future right?

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