Congressmember Lois Capps on Monday sat down with concerned professionals working in Southern California’s housing industry to discuss issues and changes that might hit the housing market in the wake of budget hearings and the economic downturn. “You’re some of the best barometers on the economy,” she told the crowd of Santa Barbara Association of Realtors members, some of whom had come from Ventura or San Luis Obispo for the event. Capps was adamant about federal support of the private sector, citing her backing of raised Recovery Act loan limits, preserving mortgage interest deduction, and the National Flood Insurance Program, among other efforts to fuel and sustain the housing market.
That didn’t stop a barrage of questions, arguments, advice, and requests from hitting Capps when she finished speaking and opened the room to Q&A discussion. Fears of the mortgage interest deduction getting caught in the maw of federal budget cuts, frustration with bank regulations and qualifying for interest rates, and desires to see local businesses flourish were some of the many sentiments that defined the meeting. But many of the suggestions, like extending flood insurance to cover all natural disasters to make things easier and safer for potential homebuyers, were unfeasible simply because the money isn’t there, explained Capps. “It doesn’t get traction because of the cost,” Capps said on the natural disaster insurance issue.
Real estate agent Richard Box raised an issue regarding the current state of the housing market. Many houses have started to fall apart and become delapidated with no live-in family to attend to them; broken windows, frozen toilets, pipes, etc., are racking up costly damages in certain parts of the country. He suggested it could be cheaper for housing companies, in certain cases, to allow families to move into vacant houses and pay only for utilities rather than let the buildings accrue expensive maintenance needs. Capps said she and her staff would look into the matter.
Capps had her work cut out for her in terms of assuaging the general restlessness in the room. The housing market in California is in particularly bad turmoil compared to other regions of the country. But despite this fact, a minimal amount of government budget wiggle-room exists for stimulating the housing market, and disagreements over the best methods to rebuild America’s economy abound. Capps made it clear that protecting and preserving the housing industry was a high priority of hers.