Have We Just Shifted the Mortgage Debt Burden?

A recent Washington Post article brings up how deeply involved the Federal government has become in the current housing market. In order to keep the mortgage markets from freezing up during the dire days of the housing crash, the government stepped in and took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the nation’s largest mortgage financiers.

“While this made it possible for many borrowers to keep getting loans and helped protect the housing market from further damage, the government’s newly dominant role – nearly 90 percent of all new home loans are funded or guaranteed by taxpayers – has far-reaching consequences for prospective home buyers and taxpayers,” the article says.

And together with guarantees made by the Federal Housing Administration, “The [government] outlay has already reached about $1 trillion over the past year and is rising. During that time, the government has pumped more money into the mortgage market than has been spent on Medicare or Social Security or the defense budget, more even than Washington has paid to bail out banks and other struggling companies.”

And with Treasury and Federal Reserve programs, “all told, the government now stands behind 86 percent of all new home loans, up from about 30 percent just four years ago, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.”

Among the biggest concerns about the government takeover of all these loan guarantees is that many of the loans are looking ripe for default and foreclosure. Fannie and Freddie have lost more than $150 billion since the beginning of 2008 and FHA loan delinquencies are also rising. So, instead of truly curtailing housing market problems, have we simply shifted the responsibility from individual homeowners, lenders, and companies to the American public (taxpayers) at large? So we all go down together instead of just one industry? Or will the Fed just print up some more money to continue bailing out the housing market if things really go south?

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