President proposes housing market reforms

Obama aims to decrease federal role in market

‘Optimistic’ is one word UW-La Crosse economics professor Adam Hoffer uses to describe the La Crosse area housing market. It’s also a word he hopes to continue using after today, when President Obama made the case for reforming the federal mortgage programs known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“How this particular move, taking away the government-backed guarantee from Frannie and Freddie, the effect that will have is also pretty widely debated,” Hoffer said.

The decision to reform the programs will shift the responsibility of backing home mortgages back to the private sector, a move that economists say will likely increase the price for fixed-rate mortgages.

“If you’re looking to buy a home right now, what this means is your traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is most likely going to go up,” Hoffer said.

Hoffer estimates the move would increase rates from the current average of 4.5 percent yearly to anywhere between 4.65 and 4.8 percent. Following that logic, Hoffer said a homeowner buying a $140,000 home in La Crosse would see a monthly mortgage increase of about $10.

“That means that new houses are going to be slightly less attractive to homebuyers,” Hoffer said.

Realtors are a little more worried about the future of the American dream. They fear hopeful homeowners may see a shift toward adjustable rates that could increase as time goes on.

“I’m just afraid it’s going to make home ownership for middle- to lower-income families harder,” said Michael Pietrek, president of the La Crosse Area Realtors Association.

Experts say, however, that homeowners shouldn’t be too concerned about the potential impact of Obama’s request.

 “This particular action isn’t going to cause huge market difficulties,” Hoffer said.