News / USA

Obama Returns to Arizona to Tout US Housing Recovery

A home is seen for sale in Gilbert, Arizona, July 30, 2013.
A home is seen for sale in Gilbert, Arizona, July 30, 2013.
Reuters
With images of vacant, half-built residential developments that gathered dust after the recession, the U.S. Southwest once symbolized the 2008-2012 housing bust that wiped out $7 trillion in homeowner equity and wrecked the finances of many Americans.

But as housing stages a recovery around the United States, including the hard-hit Sun Belt, President Barack Obama goes back to the region on Tuesday to claim some of the credit while urging further action to keep the housing winning streak alive.

More than four years after Obama outlined his plan to halt the housing market free fall in February 2009, he returns to Phoenix, where he will again talk about housing. The speech is another stop in a summer tour in which he is highlighting aspects of the economy that have improved under his watch while chiding political foes for obstructing faster progress.

But in Phoenix, the bright housing picture of increased sales and firmer prices mask continued challenges for those seeking housing, particularly those at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, say homeowner advocates.

“My fear is that people think the problem is over,” said Patricia Garcia Duarte, president of Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix. “There are still families that are struggling.”

Even those who have steady work and decent credit find themselves turned down by lenders requiring big down payments and pristine credit, she said.

Arizona, Nevada, California and Florida were the states hit hardest by cratering house prices, over building and the wave of foreclosures that started during the 2008 financial crisis. In Phoenix, Obama can point to gains in house prices and declines in foreclosures to argue that his policies established a floor for housing markets and set the stage for a rebound.

Garcia Duarte, whose organization is a chapter of a national nonprofit, said she still sees plenty of people, however, who are trying to do everything they can to stay in their homes.

What she sees in the trenches is that while foreclosures are down, more families are resorting to short sales - a sale for less than what is owed on the property - to minimize the damage. And because investors have bought homes instead of individuals, some communities have seen homeownership decline and renting rise, she said.

“I would like the president to highlight that homeownership should be a good investment,” she said. “I think policymakers shifted and crossed out homeownership as a good thing to do for this country.”

Rising from the ashes

Obama's return to Phoenix will have historic resonance because he spoke there the day after signing his $787-billion stimulus plan into law more than four years ago.

He is again focusing on the economy, trying this time to pressure lawmakers into passing government spending bills that reverse deep spending cuts and allocate funds to repair roads and bridges, and raise the nation's debt limit without drama before looming fall deadlines.

The president's focus on housing reflects the sector's outsize impact on the broader economy. Not only is a home usually a family's largest purchase, the effects of home buying ripple outward and affect a swath of other businesses such as appliance, furniture and hardware sales, landscaping and finance.

Obama is using his series of speeches to press for action to strengthen a tepid economic recovery. He is emphasizing jobs and middle class economic stability to counter a Republican message of concern over debt and deficits.

With his legislative initiatives on guns and immigration dead or stalled, Obama may also be motivated to build support for Democrats in 2014 mid-term elections. Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate that may be at risk and are in the minority in the House of Representatives.

With housing, the president may feel he has some progress to boast about.

“It went from free fall to surging house prices; there's a big revival in housing construction,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics. “The whole world has been turned around for a place like Phoenix.”

The median new home sale price rose almost 18 percent in greater Phoenix between May 2012 and May 2013, and the median “normal” existing home sale price rose more than 12 percent in that period, according to a recent Arizona State University report. Normal sales exclude the sale of distressed or bank-owned properties.

Analysts say housing appears to be on a solid footing not just in the Southwest, but nationally. Much of the early gains have been driven by investment funds, and economists say more individuals need to become involved to sustain the market. But that will require a stronger jobs market.

“Investors were instrumental in turning housing markets around, but we need to see the baton passed from the investor to the first-time home buyer,” said Zandi.

Homeownership in the United States hit a 17-1/2-year low in the second quarter as Americans continue to shift toward renting, one of the lingering legacies of the recession.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs