February 5, 2009

Pro-Black People Policy Alert: Support Republican low-rate mortgage proposal

Republicans push low-rate mortgage in U.S. stimulus | Economy | Reuters

Mitch McConnel is pushing for a provision in the stimulus bill that would drive down mortgage rates to 4%. 30 year mortgages at that price point would make it easier to purchase a home and for people who refinanced, could save them thousands of dollars over the course of a year of mortgage payments. This is a Political Season Pro Black People Policy Alert

Why should black folks support such a provision? Because the last decade or so has seen a tremendous growth in home ownership and homeonwership remains a traditional path to generational wealth building for the vast majority of Americans. This is perhaps even more true for blacks. The economic downturn is wiping out hard earned wealth gains among blacks as financially devasted families lose their homes. Before this is all over, blacks may lose two generations of wealth gains. A provision such as this one is very much in the interest of black folks to support. Think of it like a 30 year tax break that puts money in your pocket from the get. The even better aspect of this is that it costs the government very little to do it. Because of the economic crisis, investors are parking their money in US Treasury bills as the safest place to keep it for now, which means the government can borrow huge amounts of money at very low rates, like 3%. If they relend that money at 4%, they pass on the benefit of that low cost money to homeowners and the government even makes a little change on the spread. No deficit hit. Its a win win.

Not only should blacks support insertion of this into the stimulus bill though, we need to push a little further in terms of implementation. Many black folk who got mortgages in the last several years got put into sub prime loan products. Sometimes because that was the risk profile of the borrower, but sometimes despite the fact that they could have gotten into a conforming loan. Either way, those mortgages ranging anywhere from 8-11%, are draining black folk dry as they pay these heavy financing costs and leaving even more people exposed to foreclosure, which costs everyone. In addition, I suspect that people who are in sub prime products are more likely to spend the savings they get from refinancing, thereby stimulating the economy with their spending, which is in fact the whole point. This proposal in my view gets even better in terms of impact on black folks if provision is made to get people out of high cost sub prime loan products.

Now, the Heritage Foundation does not like it, and I actually agree with them with regard to doing this to stimulate home sales. Mortgage rates are already quite low, so I think this provision is of marginal benefit on that front. Their other major contention is that its an income transfer from the financial sector to homeowners who don't really need it, which feels more like an ideological issue that does not help anybody per se, which is why I think the additional twist ought to be providing relief to those stuck in sub prime products. Considering how much income in the form of taxpayer dollars has been transferred INTO the financial sector, I really don't think its a problem to let some of that circulate back where it came from in the first place.

With a tweak or two, I think this is a good idea and firmly in the interest of black folks to support. Its action time. Call and email your senator and your represenative and the White House. Tell them you support the republican proposal AND that you want provision to be made to make these low cost mortgages available to people stuck in sub prime loan products. Use the links above, get their phone number and call their office now. Ask for the legislative assistant working on housing or on the stimulus and tell them you support Mitch McConnel's proposal for lowering mortgage rates AND that provisions should be made for people stuck in high cost sub prime mortgage products to refinance out of them, because those people are likely to circulate those savings back into the economy, increasing stimulus. Do it now, do it today.