This from last Friday’s WSJ, on Moody’s and the other bond rating agencies’ complicity in bringing about the current market crisis.
This from last Thursday’s WSJ on lessons learned from the current housing crisis. Here’s a snippet:
The great American experiment with homeownership for all and mortgages for everyone is over.
Millions of homeowners will lose their houses. The government is scurrying to minimize the damage to the nation’s economy and banking system. Wall Street is picking shards out of its hide. Politicians are beseeching experts for ways to prevent a recurrence. Academics are straining to find the right historical analogy and tally the losses. And the press is looking for people to blame.
In this cacophony, it’s hard to hear a couple of important questions, let alone the answers: What have we learned about providing affordable housing to low-income Americans? And can the current “oversupply” of housing be used as subsidized shelter for those who need it?
Making every American adult a homeowner was always imprudent and impractical; now that’s obvious. Four years ago, President Bush declared: “The more people who own their home, the better off America is.” And as his administration proposed federal guarantees for mortgages without requiring down payments, then-Federal Housing Commissioner John Weicher told me in 2004: “We will have some defaults, but nearly all those families will remain homeowners.”
It was true then, and clear today, that some people should rent. Some Americans don’t earn enough to pay for a mortgage and maintain a house; in recent years, mortgage brokers worried little about the first concern and never mentioned the second. Homeownership can give Americans a stake in society and help build savings — but not if they don’t have any equity in their homes. Better to help them open savings or retirement accounts.
And this from the Calculated Risk blog, from a recent Wachovia conference call on how it views consumers “walking away” from mortgage obligations. Here’s a quote from Wachovia’s chief risk officer:
The severities in the market place when we take a house back, it takes a lower price to get homes sold and our outlook is — and as I think everybody has been reading, there is an expectation that there’s a broad accumulation of foreclosed properties that haven’t hit the market yet and perhaps even some shadow foreclosures that haven’t emerged as yet. So our concern, looking forward is that — and again, what we’re beginning to see more evidence of and sense more of in the first quarter is that conditions are going to continue to get tougher and there’s an overhang of inventory out there that is going to be costly for the industry to work through.
And on that cheery note…Good day.