arden_shank_web.jpgIn these uncertain economic times, we all know Florida’s real estate market has been hit exceptionally hard.  While our state has recently seen a decline in foreclosures, the South Florida community continues to feel the repercussions of a weak housing market.

For Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida, our nation’s housing policies are top priority.  Our organization has provided services that promote home ownership and community revitalization in Miami-Dade and Broward counties for more than 30 years.

 We believe homeownership is important to our economy and community and we offer various programs to help first time home buyers as well as foreclosure prevention classes. 

We also educate residents on available lending options in order to purchase and maintain a home.

Home ownership is the primary engine of economic prosperity for families and we believe Congress needs to promote policies that foster home ownership and home construction.

The recent debt deal leaves a lot of possibilities out there that could harm Florida families. 

Elimination of the mortgage interest deduction, which hard-working homeowners have come to rely on so heavily, has been left on the table for our lawmakers to consider in November.  It is critical that Congress preserves the deduction

for homebuyers, because any change would have an instant effect on housing costs and would significantly raise expenses for homeowners. 

Not only has the deduction been an important part of our tax code for almost a century but eliminating it would amount to a tax hike during the hardest economic period we’ve experienced in decades.  If we fail to preserve it, we will be on a fast track to even more defaults and foreclosures.

The availability of credit for potential homebuyers is also pertinent in developing a strong housing market. Ensuring government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can continue to provide credit to keep housing more attainable and affordable for potential homebuyers is critical, especially for first-time homebuyers.

Lastly, home construction is at record lows.  Construction projects have come to a screeching halt and many Floridians remain unemployed as a result.  By creating a framework that allows qualified home builders to have access to the credit and loans they need, we will be able to put people back on the job and families back in homes.  The Home Construction Lending Regulatory Improvement Act of 2011 is one proposal in Congress that will immediately boost home construction and job creation and I urge Congress to pass this much-needed reform.

It is time to put Florida’s housing market back on track and I hope our lawmakers introduce and support smart housing policies to help our families and our economy.

Arden Shank is President and CEO of the Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida.

Photo: Arden Shank