The Navarro family of southeastern Michigan sustained the full impact of an enduring foreclosure crisis. Not only did they lose their home to foreclosure, but like so many Americans, they did not get back on their feet afterward. The father relied on his old truck for work but decided that a car payment would be better than throwing money at fixing his old truck’s engine yet again. As a result of the foreclosure, car dealer after car dealer turned him down because of his poor credit: “I went to two or three dealers and they all threw at my face the problem with foreclosure. Our credit is very low and it has affected us a lot.”
How can any family get ahead in today’s housing system and troubled economy? It is no surprise that those who went through foreclosure experienced a substantial blow to any financial security they once had. Beyond equity and assets, some families struggled to find a suitable rental unit and cover basic expenses.
President Barack Obama has scarcely mentioned housing in recent months, aside from occasional pitches for reforms to help more homeowners refinance. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 59-point economic plan unveiled last year makes only a couple of passing references to housing, and Gov. Romney has yet to release any substantive housing proposals since. In fact, until last week, he had not even a whisper about housing on his campaign website. This is troubling indeed.
As our presidential hopefuls remain generally silent, the sluggish housing market continues to plague our economy. The historic decline in home prices since 2006 has cost Americans more than $7 trillion in household wealth, forced millions of families out of their homes, and left nearly one in four homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The U.S. housing market is where the Great Recession began and we’re unlikely to see a full recovery until the market heals. The housing sector historically accounts for about one-fifth of our economy and housing booms paved the path to our last three economic recoveries. But few analysts expect such a boom anytime soon.
We can no longer afford to ignore these problems. As the presidential campaign shifts into high gear in the coming weeks, President Obama and Gov. Romney must lay out their respective solutions for housing in the United States.