Seattle is offering $5,000 loans to homeowners to stave off foreclosures, while Massachusetts is offering refinancing funded by bond issues. The usual suspects in talk radio and the like are up in arms about “bailing out” their fellow citizens.
The goal of these programs is not just to keep people from losing their homes, but also to limit broader economic fallout, including plummeting property tax revenues and widespread declines in home values. Still, they pit what some government officials say are practical economic solutions for the common good against individual ideals of fairness and personal responsibility.
The Times notes that governments have a history of getting involved in home crises, noting the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation refinanced a million loans in the Depression and made a profit doing it.
Bloomberg reports that states are going to Congress to ask for relief from the higher debt prices they’re facing in the credit crisis—especially from the meltdown in the auction-rate securities market.
Washington’s governor, for instance, says Seattle faces an interest tab $80 million higher than it did a few weeks ago.
The WSJ reports on its front page that the U.S. is pushing so-called sovereign-wealth funds to open themselves up to outside scrutiny and promise not to interfere politically.
The talks are part of delicate global negotiations to draft rules to oversee the behavior of such funds, without discouraging them from investing in the U.S., Canada and Europe at a time of global financial turmoil.
Also on its page one, the Journal says states are under fire for trying to get people to buy their own long-term care insurance, rather than use tax revenue to subsidize it.
Critics are sounding alarm bells. They argue that the financial benefits of LTC insurance for many target customers are negligible to nonexistent. Their income and assets are so low that they would quickly qualify for free care under Medicaid.
In economic news, Bloomberg reports that foreclosures soared by 90 percent in January from a year ago as payments on adjustable-rate mortgages reset higher.
The Journal says the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is beefing up its staff to prepare for the bank failures it sees as likely to increase. The paper quotes an analyst saying the FDIC is preparing for one hundred bank collapses over the next year or two, up from zero from 2005 to 2007.
In many parts of the country, the housing-market decline has hamstrung banks, and regulators have reported weakening performance of commercial real estate, small business and credit-card loans. Exacerbating the situation is a cash-flow crunch, which makes it harder for banks to obtain funding to originate new loans.
Existing home sales declines moderated in January but were still off 23 percent from a year ago. Median sales prices for existing homes fell 4.6 percent to $201,000.