Living La Vida Local

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The following are several questions that REALTOR® Magazine posed in writing to the candidates.

What economic policies will help keep home sales strong without causing the market to overheat?

BUSH: Make the tax cuts permanent. That’s critical to maintaining homeownership growth without overheating the market. Also, savings proposals I’ve put forward such as Lifetime Savings Accounts and Individual Development
Accounts help people buy homes. In addition, home buying incentives such as the American Dream Downpayment Fund have helped to raise homeownership and minority homeownership rates by helping with downpayments, closing costs and repairs. And increased funding for housing counseling is helping more families make smart financial decisions.

KERRY: Keep interest rates lower by restoring fiscal discipline within the federal
government. I will cut the deficit in half in my first term by rolling back tax cuts for families making more than $200,000 and restraining the growth of federal spending. In addition, I will jumpstart job growth with a New Jobs Tax Credit, enforce our trade agreements, bring down the spiraling cost of health care and education, and invest in the industries of the future.

What can the federal government do to help working households of modest income obtain housing near their jobs?

BUSH: Increase the availability of affordable housing. To this end, I have proposed a $2.54 billion, five-year Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax
Credit. The credit to developers is for up to 50 percent of housing rehabilitation
and construction costs, provided the new homes are offered to buyers with incomes of up to 80 percent of area median income. I’ve also taken steps to increase housing availability through the American Dream Downpayment Act,
signed in 2003, that will help some 40,000 families a year with downpayment
and closing cost assistance.

KERRY: I will emphasize a three-pronged approach: Strengthening FHA single-family programs to get affordable mortgage financing into low- and moderate-
income homebuyers’ hands, preserving existing affordable rental homes, and
improving coordination among the local transportation and housing sectors.

Preservation is more cost-effective than building new housing. The U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development has opened hundreds of
thousands of state-financed affordable rental homes to possible “opt-outs,”
which means that hard-working and elderly families might be facing unaffordable
rent increases or be forced to move. In many of these cases, the federal government could pay higher rent subsidies to prevent tenant displacement.

In emphasizing FHA, I will also push to create low-downpayment programs for
teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other municipal workers. On transportation, better coordination of the use of transportation funds with the
construction of affordable homes can lead to development along transportation corridors, reducing commuting times and road congestion, preserving open space, and creating housing opportunities.

Municipalities, in an effort to generate more tax revenue, are increasingly using their powers of eminent domain to transfer property from one private owner to another for development of projects such as retail centers. Is this appropriate?

BUSH: I support the rights of state legislatures to pass laws restricting the use of eminent domain as they see fit, within the context of the constitutional protection of eminent domain as a power granted to local government.

KERRY: I support private property rights. I also believe the use of eminent
domain by state and local governments is primarily a state and local matter. At the same time, we must take steps to alleviate the fiscal pressures on state and local governments, and I have proposed a new State Tax Relief and Education Fund that would provide $25 billion to help states balance their budgets, meet their homeland security needs, and avoid tax increases and the like.

What’s the federal government’s role in promoting environmentally
responsible residential and commercial construction techniques?

BUSH: The U.S. Department of Energy provided funding for the Rebuild
America Program, which has formed more than 450 voluntary community partnerships to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings. And the expansion of the EPA’s Energy Star program will help reduce pollution from commercial buildings by encouraging energy efficient design. Also, my proposed National Energy Policy encourages construction of buildings that are more energy efficient.

KERRY: A Kerry administration will enthusiastically promote green buildings through certification programs, federal building design leadership, and building
efficiency tax credits.

This article originally appeared in The Santa Monica Daily Press.
 For your real estate needs, e-mail Jodi Summers at or call 310-260-8269.