Martin Schram's column that was reproduced in the Star gives credit to President Obama's "modest, long overdue executive action" to help some underwater homeowners to refinance high mortgages.
In the piece, he compares the banks' foreclosure process on people who aren't keeping up with payments as "robbery" while describing Obama's plan as the "fair and decent thing."
In focusing on the struggling homeowner, Schram forgets about the segment who didn't buy homes during the housing bubble and still find themselves frozen out of the market due to "decent" executive actions to artificially inflate home prices.
Consider this example. It's 2006. Steven Spender wants to buy a house, and so does Frank Frugal. Home prices have taken off in recent years, so that even a modest condominium costs $380,000, and an average house is $500,000. Neither man can afford the payments on a loan that large, but banks are offering a 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage. Frank Frugal worries if he can afford the payment once the interest rate resets, but Steven Spender takes the bait and buys the house, his poor judgment leading him to believe that prices will go up forever and he'll be able to sell the house for a profit before the ARM resets. Frank Frugal continues renting an apartment to save money and hopes homes prices will come down someday.
It's now 2008. The housing bubble burst and the economy is taking a nose dive. Houses have begun to drop in value, but are propped up with low interest rates and bank bailouts. Without the government action, housing prices would have decreased 30, 40, or 50%, putting them in Frank Frugal's price range. Instead, they've only dropped about 20%, which is still inflated by historical standards. Frank Frugal continues to wait and save money.
Now it's 2011. Housing prices have steadily dropped despite government action. Steven Spender, who has lived in a nice house for 5 years, is underwater. His ARM is resetting and foreclosure is imminent. Frank Frugal, who has sacrificed in an apartment for 5 years, has saved for a 20% down payment for a house, the prices of which are now in striking distance thanks to a rash of foreclosures. Fixed interest rates are now about 4%, and prices dropped 50%. He can finally afford a home.
And now President Obama is going to restructure Steven Spender's mortgage to the favorable terms that Frank Frugal got after wisely waiting for 5 years.
That's fair, Mr. Schram?