There have been a lot of divergent takes on the dismal housing market recently. Some say housing as an investment is over, others say there's still a case to be made for home ownership. Some think things might be better if the government stops propping up prices, others say government pullout will only make matters worse. Even the most contrarian thinkers, though, aren't trying to paint the situation as a good one.
Except, apparently, for Paul McMorrow. Writing in the Boston Globe, McMorrow manages to find a very well-hidden "upside of dismal home sales."
A slowdown in home sales doesn't just mean that sellers are struggling with a post-tax-credit hangover or that the economy is softer than it appeared when all those tax credit-fueled sales were closing in the spring. It's also evidence of a fundamental shift in national housing policy ...
That shift is good, argues McMorrow. He points to Harvard historian Niall Ferguson's characterization of the last decade as "giant game of chicken in which the government and Wall Street raced to see how many Americans could own a home before the economy imploded; the answer, he said, is 69 percent." Pulling homeownership back from that number and not restoring the "free money" that enabled it could be a good thing. We might, reasons McMorrow, be moving towards a scenario which Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank has been advocating for the past two years: "Instead of forcing people to take on a mortgage, Frank has argued, the government should worry about how to help create a steady supply of affordable rental housing." So maybe the awful housing market is actually a sign that the economy is headed toward long-term health.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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