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TheStreet Open House

Obama Housing Fix Needs to Go Beyond Housing Reform

Stocks in this article: FNMA FMCC XHB IYR

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- President Obama's speech on housing Tuesday and his discussion with Zillow (Z) chief Spencer Rascoff on Wednesday have generated a lot of talk about housing reform.

Notably, his call to wind down the government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC), has added fuel to the debate on what the government's role in housing should be.

Outside of GSE reform, Obama also continued his push for more refinancing options and greater clarity on mortgage regulations to increase the availability of mortgage credit. He also highlighted the need for affordable rental housing.

But even if everything on the President's housing agenda gets done -- and that's a tall order, especially where GSE reform is concerned -- it still might not be enough to fix housing.

Credit standards might loosen once there is better clarity on regulations, but it won't loosen by a lot.

New rules require banks to ensure that borrowers have an ability to pay their mortgage. Unfortunately, in this economic environment, a lot of borrowers cannot afford their homes.

The President acknowledged as much in his conversation with Zillow Wednesday. "I think we all recognize that it is still a soft housing market, in part, because it is still a soft unemployment market. The real economy is directly related to the housing market," he said.

And, as TheStreet has pointed out, tight credit isn't the real problem . The fact is, incomes have been growing too slowly to keep pace with the rise in home prices.

Borrowers are struggling to save enough for a downpayment and homeownership, the "quintessential element of the American dream" as President Obama put it, remains elusive.

Too many people have been left behind as home prices have risen, notably young adults, who are still dealing with high unemployment.

The employment rate in the 25 to 34-year old category is 75%, well below the normal pre-bubble rate of 78%-80%. But this is the group that in a normal environment would be out buying their first home.

Even those gainfully employed are choosing to live with their parents, because they can't even afford to rent. That's because they are saddled with thousands of dollars in student debt.

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