Real estate professionals who turn to John McCain’s Web site for information about his housing policy may be disappointed to discover there’s not much there to examine. But the omission of specific plans and programs may be less of an oversight on the candidate’s part and more of a statement in and of itself as to his views.

Editor’s note: Read Marcie Geffner’s column about presidential candidate Barack Obama’s housing policy at this link.

Real estate professionals who turn to John McCain’s Web site for information about his housing policy may be disappointed to discover there’s not much there to examine. But the omission of specific plans and programs may be less of an oversight on the candidate’s part and more of a statement in and of itself as to his views.

The presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s presidential election has spoken out about the housing crisis and established parameters for the steps he believes the federal government should and shouldn’t take in response. He’s also announced one specific housing program that he’d try to enact if elected.

McCain addressed the "devastating impact" of the housing crisis on U.S. financial markets and household budgets in a March 27 statement that recapped a day-earlier speech on the crisis. The candidate acknowledged a responsibility to help "deserving" homeowners who were in danger of losing their home and expressed his commitment to consider "any and all proposals" that would accomplish that goal. But he also emphasized that any government intervention should be limited in scope and aim to prevent a recurrence of the crisis.

"I believe the role of government is to help the truly needy, prevent systemic economic risk and enact reforms that prevent the kind of crisis we are currently experiencing from ever happening again," he said. "Those reforms should focus on improving transparency and accountability in our capital markets — both of which were lacking in the lead-up to the current situation."

McCain also stated his opposition to any large government programs that would be a "bailout" for large banks or real estate "speculators." Beyond that, he’s left the details to the banking industry to sort out.

"This is a complex problem that deserves a careful, balanced approach that helps the homeowners in trouble, not big banks and speculators that acted irresponsibly. I again call on our lending institutions, where possible, to step up and help Americans who are hurting in this crisis," he said.

McCain’s one housing program, named "HOME Plan," would give "deserving" homeowners an opportunity to replace a "burdensome mortgage" with a "manageable loan that reflects their home’s market value," according to the candidate’s Web site.

Those eligible for the proposed program, according to the site, are holders of a nonconventional mortgage taken after 2005 who:

  • live in their home (primary residence only);
  • can prove creditworthiness at the time of the original loan;
  • are either delinquent, in arrears on payments, facing a reset or otherwise demonstrate that they will be unable to continue to meet their mortgage obligations; and
  • can meet the terms of a new 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage on their existing home.

"How It Works: Individuals pick up a form at any post office or download the form over the Internet and apply for a HOME loan. The FHA HOME Office certifies that the individual is qualified, and contacts the individual’s mortgage servicer. The mortgage servicer writes down and retires the existing loan, which is replaced by an FHA guaranteed HOME loan from a lender," according to the description.

In a virtual town hall meeting, McCain explained that the payments on a homeowner’s new 30-year, fixed-rate FHA-guaranteed mortgage would be based on the home’s current value, and that any future gain on the sale of the home would be divided by thirds among the homeowner, lender and government.

McCain also has called for the U.S. Justice Department to form a mortgage abuse task force to investigate and prosecute cases of mortgage fraud and assist state attorneys general in their investigations of abusive lending practices. He also has voiced his support for local homeowner and mortgage counseling programs.

In the press, McCain’s inability to recall the extent of his personal real estate holdings has been the subject of more ink than his thoughts on housing policy. For the record, according to the Los Angeles Times, McCain and his wife Cindy own:

  • a nine-acre property with a main residence and two guest cabins in Sedona, Ariz.;
  • a separate six-acre parcel also in Sedona;
  • a 2,100-square-foot condominium in Arlington, Va.;
  • three condominiums, one of approximately 6,600 square feet, in Phoenix;
  • two condominiums in Coronado, Calif.; and
  • one condominium in La Jolla, Calif.

Marcie Geffner is a freelance real estate reporter and former managing editor of Inman News.

Copyright 2008 Marcie Geffner. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author.

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