"My administration has already helped more [than]a million responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages, and I'm running to give more like them the chance to refinance and save $3,000 a year and maybe start building up some equity back," Obama said at a September campaign event in Las Vegas. "That will strengthen the housing market across the board in this state."
NCLR's Bowdler has certainly praised the Obama administration for aggressively pursuing financial institutions that pursued predatory lending practices. Over the summer the Justice Department reached a whopping $175 million settlement with Wells Fargo over allegations that independent brokers engaged in discriminatory practices with black and Latino borrowers, such as charging higher fees and directing them to take risky subprime loans.
But Bowdler called Obama's mortgage modification and refinancing program the administration's "Achilles Heel."
Two problems that plagued it were that it did not anticipate the historic job losses during the recession, which made it difficult for borrowers to repay loans. It also lacked tough enforcement mechanisms to compel banks and lending institutions to participate and prevent additional foreclosures.
"There are lots of carrots, no sticks," she said.
Romney has released a housing plan that includes broad policy prescriptions, including reform of government-backed mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, roll back some regulations, selling around 200,000 government-owned homes in foreclosure and "facilitate foreclosure alternatives for those who cannot afford to pay their mortgage."
But the plan has been criticized for lacking fundamental details describing how he would enact reforms of Fannie and Freddie and how his plan to ease foreclosures would be more effective than Obama's.
Democrats have also pounced on Romney's remark last year that the government should let the foreclosure process "hit the bottom" so that new investors could come in and rent out homes until the market rebounds.
Bowdler suggested that Romney should have drawn sharper contrasts with Obama, as well as past housing policy solutions, by proposing a comprehensive public-private collaboration to ease foreclosures.
But whatever their plans may be, voters deserve to hear about them before heading to the polls.
"The major question is: how do they envision housing as a part of our economic recovery and growth in the future. And if they do, then what are you going to do about it?" Bowdler said. "We haven't even gotten the candidates to say that much."