NEW YORK – Weakness in the housing markets have held back economic recovery, but “no single solution” will solve housing’s woes, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Friday.
“No single solution will be sufficient. But sustained efforts to address the many interlocking factors holding back the housing market will pay dividends in the long run,” Bernanke told the National Association of Home Builders International Builders’ Show, according to prepared text released by the Fed.
“Although the precipitous declines in construction that began in 2006 are, thankfully, now behind us, homebuilding remains depressed in most areas, relative both to where it was before the downturn and to where it will need to be to meet the needs of a growing population in the longer term,” Bernanke said.
Because housing has had such an effect on the economy, the Fed has “a keen interest” in the market and “actively engaged in analyzing the housing and mortgage markets.”
Many factors constrain housing demand, including high unemployment rates, availability of mortgage credit, and housing’s loss of status as a secure investment, “given uncertainty about future home prices and the economy more generally,” Bernanke said.
“An additional issue is the implication of tight mortgage credit conditions for monetary policy,” he said. “Because some creditworthy households are finding it difficult to obtain mortgage credit or to refinance, the strong actions taken by the Federal Reserve to put downward pressure on longer-term rates and to improve financial conditions have had less effect on the housing sector and overall economic activity than they otherwise would have had. The problem of tight mortgage credit will not be solved easily or quickly. The Federal Reserve, in its supervisory capacity, continues to encourage lenders to find ways to maintain prudent lending standards while serving creditworthy borrowers. But the slow recovery of the housing market and the economy, continued uncertainty surrounding the future of the GSEs and the regulatory environment for mortgage lending, the likely continued absence of a private-label market, and more cautious attitudes by lenders are all barriers to rapid normalization of the flow of mortgage credit.”