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Baker Argues for Right-to-Rent

With the Home Affordable Modification Program faltering in its effort to stem the foreclosure crisis, Dean Baker, the co-chair of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argues for a simple and free way for Congress to aid banks and underwater homeowners.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, headed by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.), he says that home values still need to deflate 10 to 20 percent. To ensure that underwater homeowners do not simply walk away from their mortgages, Congress should create a right-to-rent program letting people undergoing foreclosure rent their homes for five or ten years:

[M]ost homeowners who purchased their homes near the peak of the market are unlikely to ever see any equity in their home. In addition, even they are likely to be paying more in ownership costs than they would to rent a comparable home, even if they were to benefit from a modification and receive a lower cost mortgage….[An] efficient approach would be Right to Rent legislation that would temporarily change the rules on foreclosure to allow homeowners to stay in their homes, paying the market rent for a substantial period of time following foreclosure. By incentivizing lenders to negotiate, Right to Rent would immediately benefit all homeowners facing foreclosure. Finally, Right to Rent could be implemented at no cost to taxpayers and would require no new bureaucracy.

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