NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A discussion on the role of government in housing was conspicuously missing from the first Presidential debate on Wednesday, which means we still don't have any ideas from Washington on how to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The word housing was mentioned all of three times during the debate, according to the transcript.
President Obama noted that housing had begun to rise. Governor Romney attacked Dodd-Frank and said tougher regulations and the uncertainty around what constitutes a qualified mortgage had hurt housing.
But there was no talk of solutions for the housing mess, despite the fact that more than 10 million homeowners remain underwater. There was zero mention of principal reductions or refinancing.Maybe rising home prices has made housing less of an election issue. Trulia economist Jed Kolko notes that home prices are rising in six out of the seven swing states on a year-on-year basis, which is positive for President Obama. Governor Romney might find it tougher now to criticize the Obama administration for failed housing policies. Or maybe the candidates realize that any policy fix they offer for housing would mean someone -- investor or lender or taxpayer -- has to lose and that would be politically unpalatable. But both sides have said they want to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two big enablers of the housing bubble. And this is something that resonates with voters, after a $180 billion bail out of the GSEs. Yet, in a debate focused on regulation and the role of government, both candidates avoided talking about how they would reduce the role of government intervention in housing. The role of government in housing has grown bigger since the crisis. More than 90% of mortgages continue to be originated by the agencies. In fact, "Reducing the role of government" was the first talking point in the Romney-Ryan plan to end the housing crisis. "The Romney-Ryan Plan will completely end "too-big-to-fail" by reforming the GSEs," the campaign's white paper which was released recently said. "Rather than just talk about reform, a Romney-Ryan Administration will protect taxpayers from additional risk in the future by reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and provide a long-term, sustainable solution for the future of housing finance reform in our country."
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