Several major states hold primaries today, with voters in delegate-rich Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Illinois going to the polls. It could be a make-or-break day for some candidates.
What’s on voters’ minds? Not housing. A Redfin survey of 750 homebuyers last month found that three-fourths of them don’t think housing is an important political issue this year.
Nearly the same number of respondents said the presidential election won’t affect the housing market.
Homebuyers seem to be telling us that politics doesn’t affect their personal decision to buy. After all, 29 percent of our survey respondents said a major life event like a marriage or new child motivated them to go house hunting. Buying a house after having twins isn’t a political decision, it’s a practical one.
But the second most-cited reason for buying was that rent is too high. That’s practical–and political. Dig a little deeper and we find that homeowners make a lot of decisions on buying that are unquestionably political.
For example, when we asked buyers what they were looking for in a new house, 40 percent checked off school quality, 34 percent said a reasonable commute, 34 percent said green space and 20 percent said parking. Eighteen percent cited property taxes and another 18 percent wanted to be walking distance from shops, nightlife and entertainment.
In other words, taxes, school quality, transit and zoning are key when it comes to selecting a house. Those might not be topics for presidential candidates but they are political. On election day, voters will cast ballots in dozens of state and local races than can affect homeowners directly. Housing is always a political issue.
National candidates matter, too. Housing accounts for 18 percent of our economy. Taxpayers, directly or indirectly, back most U.S. home loans. The Federal Reserve sets monetary policy, which can affect mortgage rates. Congress determines fiscal policy and can decide whether the mortgage interest deduction and other tax breaks live or die. National environmental and safety laws can affect how and where your home is built.
“Historically both Republican and Democratic administrations have adopted policy platforms that support homeownership,” Redfin Chief Economist Nela Richardson said. “Housing is seen by the government as an engine of wealth creation for the middle class. With income inequality a growing concern, housing still plays a crucial role in economic well-being for most families and that’s an issue worth voting for.”
Moreover, our next president will be forced to set a national housing agenda whether he or she wants to or not. In the wake of the housing collapse, Congress passed laws forcing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to shed their capital reserves, with the idea that the government-sponsored mortgage giants would be eliminated or reformed by now. They’re still here and they’re fast approaching the day they’ll need more help from the federal government — meaning us taxpayers.
Here are six pressing housing questions we should be asking candidates. Even though a big share of our survey respondents put little faith in the current crop of candidates when it comes to housing policy, it’s important to understand how local and national politics affect what we buy and what we can afford.
So vote. After all, you’ve got a stake in this thing.