Stimulus has a plan for housing market

A foreclosure sign in front of a home in Miami Beach, Fla.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: The House could vote as early as today on that economic stimulus bill
that has been through the ringer. A Senate vote will likely follow -- perhaps this weekend. And that would send the reconciled bill to President Obama's desk.

Of course all of this is part of the president's economic team trying to take a bigger bite out of the economic fallout. Now they're really focusing on the housing market, where some of the biggest problems are. So news of a plan to stop people from falling behind on their mortgages excited investors. From New York, here's Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson.


Jeremy Hobson: The Treasury Department is not laying out the details. But the idea is that homeowners could get government subsidies before they become delinquent on their mortgages.

There's been a lot of talk about allowing bankruptcy judges to alter the terms of people's home loans. But this new plan could be even simpler, says MIT housing economist William Wheaton.

William Wheaton: The Federal government already has the administrative apparatus, through unemployment insurance, through the health system, to deliver checks to people who file and meet criteria to receive checks.

And, he says, since the apparatus is already in place, the plan could be implemented quickly and easily. Which may be why Wall Street is so happy with it.

But Wheaton says he cringes for the American taxpayer:

Wheaton: Administratively, I think it's kind of a very clever idea. And it's much more transparent and it's easy to implement. The thing that causes me to cringe is you do have to decide who deserves it. And that's a tricky question.

The Obama administration says it plans to spend $50 billion of the TARP money to fight foreclosures. And the tracking company RealtyTrac said yesterday that foreclosure filings are 18 percent higher than they were a year ago.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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