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Letter - Shoring up housing market first step in steadying economy

To the editor:

Stabilizing housing should be square one for any meaningful effort to stimulate the nation's economy and pull it back from the brink of recession. If Congress is serious about averting job losses and boosting consumer confidence, it needs to start by shoring up housing. For most U.S. families, a home is their largest financial asset.

With mortgage interest rates near historic lows, it's time to end the mortgage credit crunch that continues to deter prospective home buyers who live in high-cost markets, for households with moderate-incomes and for those seeking to buy a home for the first time. Congress has the power to get mortgage money flowing again by allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase larger mortgages for a two-year period and tying that to full regulatory reform of these institutions. It can help buyers who have trouble saving up for a big down-payment by modernizing FHA. It can give a shot in the arm to job-producing businesses that have been hurt by the housing downturn by allowing them to carry back net operating losses for five years. And it can make further headway on reducing foreclosures by expanding the mortgage revenue bond program to help subprime borrowers refinance into loans they can afford instead of waiting for their loans to reset at a higher interest rate with a monthly payment beyond their means.

Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, along with three Republican colleagues, recently co-authored legislation to provide a $15,000 tax credit spread out over three years for anyone purchasing a new home, foreclosed home or a home where foreclosure is pending. According to Isakson, it was exactly this kind of tax credit that improved the housing market and nation's economy during a similar crisis in the mid-1970s. A proactive measure such as this one would certainly help turn the tide and generate new momentum.

The housing industry in metro Atlanta represents one in six jobs locally in what is one of the largest housing markets in the country. Growth in the housing sector will be a critical, practical and sound way to provide metro Atlanta and the entire U.S. economy with a much-needed boost at this time."

Bruce Mundy

President, Rockdale County Chapter

Atlanta Home Builders Association