With the presidential election campaign nearing its home stretch, neither President Obama nor Gov. Mitt Romney has presented a vision on how they would get housing back on track. The lack of substance on this issue is even more stunning when you consider the current anemic job and economic growth. Housing has traditionally led the nation out of prior recessions.
The impact of the housing downturn can be felt here in Elkhart County where residential construction in 2011 amounted to only 145 homes. Contrast this with the early years of this decade when more than 1,000 homes were being built annually. For every 100 homes built, more than 300 full-time jobs are created and millions of dollars of tax revenues are generated to help local governments to provide essential services such as schools, roads and police and firefighter protection.
Housing stands ready to bolster job growth if policymakers do their part. They must end overly restrictive credit conditions that are preventing qualified buyers from purchasing a home and builders from obtaining loans to construct viable projects. They need to maintain a federal backstop for housing to keep the 30-year, fixed rate mortgage readily available and affordable.
Elkhart County homeowners in all income ranges have suffered a loss in value of their property. The extent of that loss has been exaggerated and prolonged by a broken appraisal process. Regulators need to revise the appraisal process which perpetuates lowered home values and prevents homeowners from refinancing at more favorable interest rates. Lower house payments mean more disposable income and more jobs. An artificially devalued housing market starves local government of property tax revenue and deprives homeowners of the full value of their home.
Voters deserve a thoughtful discussion among candidates on what steps they believe must be taken to revive housing.
— Terry Herschberger
President, Builders Association
of Elkhart County