Out of House and Loan

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Senators took swift action in the face of the mounting mortgage crisis to provide desperately needed relief to...home manufacturers? Don't suppose this has anything to do with recent threats by the National Association of Home Builders to suspend campaign contributions to members of Congress if they didn't get the legislation they liked.

The compromise legislation will provide billions in tax breaks for home builders, while homeowners on the brink of foreclosure will have to content themselves with a bit more mortgage counseling, a tax credit, and money to government to refurbish the homes they lose to foreclosure.

Families who cannot afford to repay their home loans -- the group at the heart of the mortgage meltdown -- would benefit mainly from $100 million to expand foreclosure counseling services and greater latitude for local housing authorities to use tax-exempt bonds in refinancing subprime loans.

Home builders and other businesses suffering losses in the flagging economy, meanwhile, would get the lion's share of federal spending in the bill: $6 billion in tax rebates.

Industry concerns deserve to be considered, but it's crass to slap the "housing relief" banner across a bill that pushes most of the money towards industry tax breaks. I'd suggest that strapped homeowners launch a similar effort to withhold their campaign contributions but something tells me it won't have quite the same effect.


Still, some economists, local politicians and advocates for borrowers reacted with disappointment. They estimated that 8,000 families per day are sliding into foreclosure and said that without a major new mechanism for renegotiating mortgages, the package announced yesterday is unlikely to help most borrowers struggling to keep their homes.

"It's not clear what good it's really doing," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "It's a bipartisan effort not to help the right people."