As Mitt Romney officially claimed the Republican Party nomination for president this week in Tampa, police there warned protesters against squatting in vacant houses that dot the area. Foreclosures recently spiked again in the Tampa region, where homes have shed half their value since the housing market crashed.
But hard-hit Tampa seems unlikely to be a backdrop for Romney to outline ways his administration would fix the ailing housing market. To date, he has said little to illuminate his views on the topic, except to say that when it comes to foreclosures, the government should butt out.
“Let it run its course and hit the bottom,” Romney told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last October.
Experts chime in
Since then, the former Massachusetts governor has largely avoided references to housing policy, except when criticizing President Barack Obama’s. Romney’s 59-point economic growth plan contains no housing initiatives. Among two dozen issues addressed on his campaign website — from taxes to trade policy — foreclosures are not mentioned. His running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, was scheduled to discuss housing during a Las Vegas campaign stop in August, but he barely mentioned the word.
“Romney’s running as Mr. Fix-it on the economy, but he has nothing to say about one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle,” said Jason Gold, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank affiliated with the Democratic Party.
Gold, who specializes in housing policy, questioned whether Romney’s selection of Ryan as a running mate indicates he supports privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as Ryan called for in a budget blueprint last year. Romney hasn’t said.
Many conservatives argue such a move would finally untangle government — and taxpayers — from the mortgage business. Gold calls it an impractical step that would almost certainly end the days of 30-year fixed mortgages. “It would take a sledgehammer to the housing market and throw us right back into recession,” he said.
Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said Romney is correct in suggesting the housing market must be left to resolve its troubles.
“We have to let prices find their equilibrium, and then people will buy homes again,” he said. “That’s largely what’s happening now.”