Bair, Housing Experts Consider Government, Bank Roles

Washington, D.C.--Opening keynote speaker Sheila Bair and a panel of housing experts offered a mixed view of government and lender involvement during the first general session of the Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting on Wednesday.

(This article first appeared in our sister publication Commercial Property Executive on October 13th)

Washington, D.C.–Opening keynote speaker Sheila Bair and a panel of housing experts offered a mixed view of government and lender involvement during the first general session of the Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting on Wednesday.

“Sometimes I wonder whether lenders have really learned their lessons,” observed Bair. Given the offers that continue to be marketed, she wondered, “Have we fixed anything?” At the same time, she declared that “the bank system is healing,” with the number of banks closing this year not likely to be that much higher than last year and more concentrated among smaller banks.

While she would not voice a preference for a future model for the government-sponsored entities, she said that if the government is to be involved it needs to provide explicit support—otherwise, it should not be involved.

During the panel that followed, former secretaries of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros and Steve Preston, former Enterprise Community Partners chairman & CEO Bart Harvey and Trammell Crow Residential chairman emeritus J. Ronald Terwilliger discussed the future of housing policy with moderator Thomas Bozzuto, president & CEO of The Bozzuto Group.

They generally agreed there promises to be a growing shortage of affordable housing, both rental and for sale, and that the government will need to be involved to make any progress. Cisneros noted there will need to be 130 million more homes by 2050. “I don’t think the private sector can address all our housing needs,” Terwilliger declared. “I think the federal as well as state and local governments have a role to play.”

And resolving the housing situation will be necessary for economy recovery, they added. Emphasizing the continued need for affordability and “decency” in housing, Cisneros noted that every economic recovery since World War II has involved housing.

Solutions for the GSEs proved a more divided topic, with Preston voting in favor of a private-sector model (and emphasizing transparency and consistency), Cisneros pointing to the role the GSEs have played in making multi-family housing possible and Terwilliger calling for a better balance between homeownership and rental housing, with ownership focused more on families with more stable jobs and living situations and an increase in rental housing.

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