Capping off the Democratic National Convention and officially ushering in the election season, President Barack Obama took to the podium last night to lay out his vision for America’s future. And while there are points in his speech, as there were in his challenger’s, that paint an encouraging picture for Latinos of the next four years under his leadership, there is yet again one prominent omission—what about housing?
At last week’s Republican National Convention, there was hardly a whisper about how Gov. Mitt Romney planned to solve the housing crisis. Since the housing bubble burst, home values have plummeted, leaving millions of Americans paying off mortgages that are worth more than the actual houses they own. Couple that with the millions of families all across the country who have either already lost or face the very frightening possibility of losing their homes to foreclosure, and you have a very real problem that needs to be dealt with now. And while Gov. Romney and President Obama lay out their cases for how they plan to guide this country through the economic crisis to recovery, they seem comfortable leaving families in the dark about how they plan to stem the bleeding in the housing market.
To be fair, Democrats did turn the mic over to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who highlighted one of the administration’s crowning housing achievements—the historic $25 billion Department of Justice settlement between five of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers and 49 state attorneys general. Perhaps we can take this as an indication that the incumbent plans to run on his record. Certainly, Obama has had victories worth mentioning—the historic Countrywide settlement as well as the opening of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau both show that this administration is attempting to hold banks accountable for unfair lending practices and is working to prevent consumers from once again becoming victims of fraud.
Still, these are just a few of the building blocks necessary to create a stronger, safer housing market, and quite frankly, these blocks alone will not do the job. President Obama needs to lay out a plan for American homeowners explaining how he is going to turn this housing crisis around. Is housing counseling for struggling homeowners going to be funded or will it succumb to budget cuts? How does principal reduction factor into housing policy and is it even on the table? American homeowners don’t know because the two candidates running for office won’t talk about it.
Last night, the President acknowledged the uphill challenge of healing the economy: “When the house of cards collapsed in the Great Recession, millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, a tragedy from which we’re still fighting to recover.” But the eerie silence from both President Obama and Mitt Romney inspires more concern than confidence over their ability to muster enough political will to grapple with solutions. And what homeowners need more than anything is the confidence that the leader of this country is in their corner.
We need a commitment from both candidates that they will work to make homeownership viable for all Americans. We need a plan from both candidates for how they are going to stem foreclosures and protect American consumers from fraud. And most importantly, we need an acknowledgement that this problem exists and is worth talking about during this election.
This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.