Housing Prices and Senate GOP Threatening to Block Commerce Secretary Nominee: Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 5/31/2011

May 31, 2011 3:58pm

TAPPER:  Jay, this morning information from the Case-Shiller Home Price Index made it official that the value of residential real estate had reached a new low point since the Great Recession began.  Home prices dropped by 5.1 percent, a level not seen since mid-2002.  A decade's worth of home prices (growth) just vanished.  

Does the administration have any response to this news?  Is there any — anything that can be done?  You weren't in the White House at the time, but the president announced a housing plan to great fanfare that he said would help, I believe, 3 (million) to 4 million people, and I don't think it's quite reached that level.  What is the response?   

CARNEY:  Well, let's step back.  First of all, we're obviously aware of these numbers, and we understand that this is a challenge.  The housing market remains in a challenging — a challenging situation.   But it's also important to remember more broadly that we have begun effectively a recovery, an economic recovery.  We've had — we've seen quite solid job growth now for many months, and three-quarters of a million private sector jobs were created over the past three months alone.

The — you know, restoring health in the housing market after its dramatic collapse was never going to be easy.  We've taken a lot of measures, some of which you've just mentioned, to mitigate the impact of that, especially on foreclosures.  And we are working aggressively to help homeowners modify their loans to avoid going into foreclosure and investing in communities hardest hit by the continued difficulties in the market.  In fact the hardest-hit communities program or hardest-hit states program is just really getting up and running now. So we hope that will have a positive impact.   But there's no question this is a — you know, it's a – the domestic housing market was hit very hard by this worst recession since the Great Depression, and it remains a challenge that we're addressing.

 TAPPER:  The HAMP Program may be — I would think – it has some competition — but it might be the most controversial piece of legislation that the president has put forward in terms of its effectiveness.  Obviously there are other pieces of legislation that people may dispute that claim on, but the president said it would help, I believe, around 3 million people, and last I checked it was under 1 million who have received permanent home modifications.  Is there any plan for the administration to try again?  Try something new?  Try something more effective?

 CARNEY:  Well, look, we are implementing the foreclosure mitigation programs that we've already got in place and over 600,000 homeowners have been — have obtained permanent modifications to their mortgages under HAMP.  On average, over the past six months, 25,000 to 30,000 more homeowners are obtaining permanent modifications each month.  And so far nearly 1.5 million families have received HAMP trial modifications.

TAPPER:  That falls short of the president's goals.

CARNEY:  And more work needs to be done; there's no question. That's why we're continuing implementation of the program, and look: One of the things that will help the housing market would be – it will — is continued economic growth and continued job creation because clearly people with jobs, people with solid incomes, you know, a growing economy — all of those — all of those things will help improve the housing market in the long term, and we continue to work on this every day.   This is the focus this president has, and it's why he – you know, going back to Ben's question about the commerce secretary.  I mean, one of the reasons why he picked John Bryson is because he feelslike he understands and will be able to help the economic team focus on doing things that will continue job growth, continue economic growth, increase our competitiveness, increase our exports, and all with, you know, the big goal there, which is job growth creating — job creation and economic growth for the long term in this very competitive economic environment.

TAPPER:  Do you have a response to the Senate Republicans, as long as we're talking about Bryson, on renewing their threat to hold up his confirmation until the free trade agreements are put forward?

CARNEY:  Well, look, I mean, the president obviously has done a lot of work to ensure that these three trade agreements have been put together and come to pass.  There are still technical discussionsgoing on with the administration that always precede bringing them up in a Congress.  We also want, and believe, that we should have an agreement from Congress to extend TAA, Trade Assistance Authority.   

And we think that it would be folly to hold up a nomination so important as the commerce secretary, for any reason.  And we look forward to Senate confirmation, not just of John Bryson but of his deputy who was put forward last month, and working with Congress to get these trade agreements passed.  Which is very — the president very much wants to have passed.  

-Jake Tapper

 

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