Obama jobs plan overlooks related housing crisis

A for sale sign stands in front of a home.

Steve Chiotakis: President Obama this morning is sending his $450 billion jobs plan to Congress, saying today it is a plan that leaders from both parties can agree on to get America working again.

Barack Obama: This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country. This is the bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis. This is a bill that is based on ideas from both Democrats and Republicans. And this is the bill that congress needs to pass.

President Obama at the White House just this past hour.

Now the president's plan would give aid to the unemployed, would help local communities and states and most of the plan extends tax credits and incentives to people and businesses. What it largely ignores is the nation's housing crisis. A quarter of all homes in the United States are either foreclosed or underwater, and analysts say in order to fix the job market, there needs to be attention on the housing market.

Don Lee is the Washington correspondent for the LA Times. He wrote a story about it today, and he's with us now. Morning, Don.

Don Lee: Good morning, good to be with you Steve.

Chiotakis: You got it. What is the connection between high unemployment and this really depressed housing market?

Lee: You know, with unemployment at 9 percent and many more people with part-time jobs -- even though they want full-time jobs -- and millions more afraid that they might lose their jobs, there just isn't a lot of confidence. And if you don't have confidence, or jobs -- an income that's growing -- you're not going to be going out there looking to buy a house. That's probably the last thing you want to do.

Chiotakis: And so construction suffers, and people aren't building, right?

Lee: It's a lot more, if you think about it, because home prices and housing equity has traditionally supported small businesses who are doing start-ups and expanding. They support furniture manufacturers, architects, accountants; the taxes from properties help support schools and fire districts. And so all of these things are linked together.

Chiotakis: Well what are the president's options to address, and to fix the housing market?

Lee: Well, I think the president can look at some options that people have put forth. One is, you know, we can expect a million properties this year to be taken over by lenders and another million next year. And many of them will be sitting vacant and will fall into disrepair. So, one option is to find ways to convert them to rental properties. One idea is to package them, and make them attractive to investors. And we might also have to give some opportunities for people to return some of the properties to banks and perhaps stay on as renters. And so I think those are some of the things they might consider.

Chiotakis: Don Lee, reporter for the LA Times based in Washington. Don, thanks.

Lee: Thank you.

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