Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vote and Move the Needle on Housing Challenges

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, The National Council of La Raza,
2012 is the year of the voter.  After many months of chaos, Americans continue to seek no-nonsense solutions to a floundering housing market.  Indeed, we are tired of Washington’s antics but still have confidence that we can change the status quo.  Being informed is critical to understanding the current state of the housing market and what true long-term solutions look like.
Just today, I attended The Atlantic’s Economy Summit and someone noted how astounding it was that despite the enormous number of educated Americans, many of us do not have a firm understanding of our own financial investments, the very foundation of our family’s economic livelihood.  While this statement is a bit simplistic—and, to be fair, understanding one’s own mortgage terms is no small feat—she had a point.  The biggest investment most families will make is purchasing a home, yet many families do not obtain sufficient information before diving in.  That knowledge gap increases when it comes to understanding how broader housing policy affects our day-to-day lives.  Greater education in this area is imperative, though, because despite claims that our economic health is improving, the housing market continues to struggle and we can expect further deterioration.
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has assembled a voter guide—2012 Election Spotlight:  See How Your Congressional Members Voted on Jobs and the Economy (Spanish version)—which will help explain economic decisions made on Capitol Hill.  The guide indicates how congressional members voted on several pieces of legislation—two Senate bills and two House bills—which deal with consumer protections, housing market improvements, and job creation.  This guide is a simple place to start and can help voters understand key political decisions that impact the economy.
In this election year, we must sharpen our understanding of what true accountability looks like in the market and why the fate of many is tied to that of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other market aspects.  Strong community engagement and voter education can absolutely move the needle in overcoming barriers to a stable mortgage market.