Through two presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate, the candidates have faced exactly zero questions about the U.S. housing market, despite the fact that housing has been a weight on the economic recovery. As ThinkProgress noted before the debates, there are several pertinent questions that both candidates should be asked about housing policy.
But the only media figure who seems interested in talking about this subject is The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, who last night asked President Obama about the underwhelming Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which has fallen far short of its goals:
OBAMA: On housing, right now we could make sure that families whose homes are underwater, where they owe more than their house is worth, if they refinance, typically they’d get $3,000 bucks in their pockets a year. That’s $3,000 they’re spending or $3,000 that they’re putting back into equity in their home. The housing market would helped, employment would be helped. Even Governor Romney’s own adviser says this is a good idea, and yet Governor Romney opposes it.
STEWART: But don’t you have the HAMP program? Wasn’t $50 billion set aside for HAMP and only $5.5 billion of it has been used?
OBAMA: Actually, what’s happened is we’ve got 5 million homes that we’ve seen foreclosure prevented, we’ve got a settlement with the banks that provides another $25 billion to help the housing market.
Watch it (at 7:15):
HAMP was supposed to help three to four million homeowners, but has so far resulted in just 825,000 permanent mortgage modifications. One million borrowers, meanwhile, have started the program but been booted out before getting their mortgage permanently modified. Stewart is correct that just a fraction of the money dedicated to HAMP has been spent.
President Obama’s Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), under acting director Edward DeMarco, has also prevented homeowners from receiving more help. States, meanwhile, have been siphoning off funds from the $25 billion foreclosure fraud settlement and using them for non-housing related purposes.
Romney, meanwhile, has released a housing plan that has no details about the sort of policies he would pursue. The one time Romney addressed housing during the debates, he gave a bizarre diatribe about a regulation defining so-called “qualified mortgages.”
It surely says something about the media landscape and the focus of the debates that it took a comedian to raise this important issue with one of the candidates. (HT: David Dayen)