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
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
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-
income homebuyers’ hands, preserving existing affordable rental
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
teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other municipal workers.
On transportation, better coordination of the use of transportation funds
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
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.