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Just Words from Washington

As President Bush gets set today to announce his plan for reforming the financial markets, critics already are weighing in to say the proposals don’t amount to substantive regulation and won’t make much of a difference.

But whatever you might think of reforms proposed by Bush or by Democrats in Congress, the reality is that the housing crisis is so widespread that overhauling the entire financial system for the first time since the Great Depression still won’t be enough to begin to address it.

In Cleveland, for example, regulating Wall Street is coming a little too late, and it’s not the problem people face right now. Their big headache is, of all things, Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored agency that buys mortgages. Why? Because Fannie Mae has become one of the top filers of foreclosure deeds in Cuyahoga County, according to local blogger Bill Callahan, who closely follows the city’s foreclosure problems.

Callahan pointed out that since the beginning of this year, Fannie Mae has sold more than 50 properties in Cleveland to a broker called RECA Limited Partnership, a South Carolina agency that buys and flips houses. RECA recently purchased 12 Fannie Mae-held properties – all for a total of just $25,679.

That lowball price means Fannie unloaded a bunch of foreclosed houses that most likely will be quickly sold “as is” to other flippers and speculators. So much for Fannie’s mission of promoting homeownership.

As a disgusted Callahan put it:

“Now may be a good time to call up your friends at Fannie Mae….and ask them what the hell they think they are doing.”

In the meantime, you can see why policy proposals from Washington that aren’t likely to be enacted anytime soon anyway offer little assurance to distressed homeowners. It seems that Washington doesn’t quite have a handle on the actual extent of this crisis.

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