Housing Bill Will Not Help Housing Market

The Housing Bill going through Congress will not solve the nation’s housing problem.  Congress would like to help homeowners who are overextended, as well as prospective home buyers.  By extension, they want to help home-builders and developers and the whole food-chain involved in the residential construction sector.  The housing bill will not help.

The real problem:  too many housing units.  Today the Census Bureau released second quarter data on vacancy rates, and the numbers are still ugly.

Can we solve this oversupply of housing by making mortgages easier to get?  The problem is really too big for mortgage reform to fix.  But if it did, we’d aggravate the excess supply of rental housing:

It’s important to keep both markets in mind.  Rentals can be converted into condos, which happened at the height of the home ownership boom (2004).  New condos can be made into apartments, which is happening now as recently-completed condos sit vacant.  Single family homes can be rented out or not.  And if the single family market improved just a bit, homebuilders sitting on lots would try to interest the public in new houses.  The surplus in rental markets makes the surplus of owner-occupied housing that much harder to resolve.

What will solve the underlying housing problem, of too many housing units?  Population growth, which will come with time.  You could also try to increase the number of households relative to the population.  Kick the kids out of the house.  Get divorced.

Mostly, though, this problem will resolve itself slowly as the population grows, but there are no quick fixes.  Certainly the housing bill does not fix the housing problem.