10/01/2012 10:57 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Did Romney Miss an Opportunity to Set Himself Apart on Housing?

Recently, Univision hosted a Spanish-language forum with Governor Mitt Romney on Wednesday and President Obama on Thursday. The presidential candidates spoke to Latino families about immigration, jobs, and national security. They did not, however, touch on solutions to improve the ailing housing market.

When talking about the American Dream, both candidates have concentrated on job creation. Indeed, job creation is a critical issue for Latino voters, but the single-minded focus ignores the interplay between our housing and job markets. While some are content to wait on job recovery to fix our foreclosure mess, economists are telling us that a revitalized housing market will create jobs and is necessary to move our entire economy forward.

Unfortunately, Romney missed an opportunity to set himself apart last Friday when he released a timid seven-page housing policy plan in the evening hours after the press have filed their stories.

Making his strategy public is definitely a start. It provides voters a somewhat clearer understanding of what the Romney-Ryan approach might look like in revitalizing the market, but the plan itself is vague. Ironically, the sparse white paper begins with the phrasing: "Over the past four years, the Obama administration has never offered a clear vision for the future of housing finance policy."

After boiling down the paper of the standard GOP talking points that are not necessarily housing suggestions--downsizing government, reducing national debt, and creating jobs--Romney's vision isn't much clearer. Only two dimly lit policy approaches remain. That is, if elected, Romney would work to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and he would embrace shared appreciation--a concept that President Obama also supports and a proven method of helping families modify their loans.

Romney is surrounded by economic advisors. He himself is a seasoned finance man and yet he missed this moment to stand out and provide a fully fleshed-out recovery blueprint. While we still don't know much about how either presidential candidate will heal the market, they should think very carefully about how the debates can highlight their housing recovery solutions. With only weeks to go before the election, time is running out to consult with housing experts on practical strategy.

That is exactly what Home for Good partners are looking for, though. Below is our open letter requesting a meeting with each candidate to discuss positive, tested models that can be taken to scale and to underline the reality that a healthy housing market for all families, including communities of color and the underserved, helps stabilize the whole economy.

Below is the letter we sent to President Obama and Gov. Romney

Dear President Obama and Governor Romney:

A decent home for everyone is core to the American promise of opportunity, a source of security and pride. The chance to one day own a home we can afford, under fair terms, is a fundamental part of the American Dream. Rebuilding that dream is in our national interest and crucial to our economic recovery. With your campaigns now in full swing, we ask that you explain what specifically you will do, if elected in November, to restore and enhance Home Opportunity for all people in our nation. And we urge you to adopt the proven and practical solutions that we describe below.

We are part of the Home for Good campaign, an alliance of organizations and individuals who together represent millions of people throughout our nation. We are calling on our political, business, and civic leaders, including our next president, for bold action to:

  1. Stop needless foreclosures.
  2. Expand affordable rental housing.
  3. Revive a sustainable path to homeownership.

The foreclosure crisis continues to rob millions of people of their homes, resources, and sense of security, while the future of homeownership and affordable housing remains in grave jeopardy. Approximately 8.9 million people have lost their homes since 2007, and 2 million remain in jeopardy--senior citizens losing their economic security, children and families uprooted, neighborhoods blighted with vacant properties, lifetimes of economic security destroyed, and a continuing body blow to our national prosperity. Despite the progress that we've made as a nation, unequal opportunity and discrimination by banks, brokers, and others based on race and ethnicity have meant that communities of color are among those hardest hit by this crisis, with historic losses in assets and savings. The targeting of people and communities of color, of veterans and military service members, of senior citizens and others hurts us all and runs counter to our values as a nation.

Fortunately, there are many proven and practical solutions that can stem foreclosures, restore affected communities, protect fair housing and lending, and ensure that homeownership and affordable housing are accessible pillars of American opportunity into the 21st century. The Compact for Home Opportunity, a roadmap compiling solutions proposed by multiple groups, offers specific steps for policymakers, industry leaders, and everyday Americans.

As you ask to lead our nation out of this economic crisis, we ask you to explain your specific plans to address these challenges and uphold Home Opportunity for all people. What will you do to address the lender misconduct and inadequate rules and enforcement that led to the current crisis and continue to threaten our economy? How will you ensure that families or individuals with the resources and desire to be successful homeowners are not thwarted by future misconduct, arbitrary restrictions, or a lack of sound information? How will you help rejuvenate neighborhoods devastated by predatory lending and mass foreclosures? And how will you ensure that people of all races, ethnicities, and communities have an equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream?

We urge you to provide clear, specific answers, to endorse the pillars of the Home for Good campaign, and to incorporate the principles of the Compact for Home Opportunity into your campaign platform. We invite each of your campaigns to meet with representatives from our organizations to discuss these important steps.

We have not given up on the dream that so many people share of an affordable place to live, fair treatment, and the chance to one day own a home of their own in a neighborhood of their choice. Have you? We welcome an opportunity to discuss our priorities with you.

We will follow up with your offices to set up a meeting or please feel free to contact Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project, National Council of La Raza or Alan Jenkins, Executive Director and Co-Founder, The Opportunity Agenda.


Asset Building Strategies
California Reinvestment Coalition
Center for Responsible Lending
Greenlining Institute
Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD)
National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA)
National Urban League
PICO National Network
The Opportunity Agenda

This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.