Our American Discourse, Ep. 12: The Great American Housing Finance System and the Role of the Federal Government

Housing is local, but money is global. Therein lie both conflict and collective opportunity. For while our cities and our citizens need targeted strategies, they cannot achieve their full potential on their own. Thus, the federal government has developed a complex toolkit of policies over the past eighty-plus years, some of which work better than others and all of which are evolving. What is the best way to allocate our resources toward housing affordability? How far are we from that goal? How do we even agree on what affordability means?

In this episode, our resident housing finance expert Richard K. Green walks us step-by-step through these winding routes we’ve constructed to access the American dream.

Prof. Green is the Chair of the Department of Policy Analysis and Real Estate in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, where he also serves as the Director of the Lusk Center for Real Estate in the Price School and the Marshall School of Business. He recently finished a year as Senior Advisor for Housing Finance at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He is currently a Trustee of the Urban Land Institute, a Weimer Fellow at the Homer Hoyt Institute, and a member of the faculty of the Selden Institute for Advanced Studies in Real Estate. He has previously served as Director of Financial Strategy and Policy Analysis at Freddie Mac, Chair of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chair of Real Estate Finance at The George Washington University School of Business, and President of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association.

To listen to this episode of Our American Discourse, click the orange arrow in the Soundcloud player at the top of this post. Or you can download it and subscribe through iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

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“Our American Discourse” is produced by Aubrey HicksJonathan Schwartz, and myself, and mixed by Corey and Ryan Hedden.

The Art of Distraction

Prof. Mishra has a knack for changing the subject.

When asked about income taxes, he talked about corporate taxes. When asked about the Federal Reserve, he brought the conversation around to Glass-Steagall. When asked about the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), his focus turned to the “government-sponsored enterprises” (GSEs): Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here’s how he did it:   Continue reading “The Art of Distraction”

Don’t Ask a Journalist to Explain Real Estate Economics to You, Part II

No offense to Robert Samuelson, but I’m won’t be asking him to run the Treasury Department anytime soon.

Samuelson, a Washington Post columnist, calls Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “economic mongrels” whose “losses stemmed from unrealistic ‘housing affordability goals’ [and] lax lending in pursuit of higher profits.” Not only is this statement factually incorrect, but nowhere in the entire op-ed does he explain why Fannie and Freddie exist in the first place. If you’re trying to criticize their policies and resolve the “question of what to do about” them, that’s kind of important.

In June 2009, I wrote one final op-ed for my most loyal readers. This one didn’t make it into the Hazleton Standard-Speaker, for which I had stopped writing a couple weeks earlier. Since there seems to be a lot of ignorance about the issues I discussed, let’s make it public:   Continue reading “Don’t Ask a Journalist to Explain Real Estate Economics to You, Part II”