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The Housing Crisis, And Unintended Consequences

There are all kinds of remedies to the mortgage crisis in the air, in America, of course, but also in other economies that had latched on to sub-prime lending as a source of devil-may-care profit and cross-your-fingers home-ownership.

I've just read two articles which raise issues that had not really crossed my mind.

The first, "Don't Blame the Markets," is by economist Jerry Bowyer and is published in Friday's New York Sun. The article goes overboard in exculpating the banking houses, mortgage lending combines, and credit card operations from their panicked rush to sell, sell, sell loans, no matter what the credit the borrowers did not have. But he does make a good point that the laws coerced the banks, certainly, to lend virtually without evidence of creditworthiness. The Community Reinvestment Act aimed at lending in poor neighborhoods and to minority borrowers, to end what used to be called "red-lining." So there was a certain panic among the banks to be good citizens, and now they and their loan customers are in deep troubles.

The second article, centered on Britain, nevertheless makes a point equally apt for America. Published in today's FT and written by columnist Martin Wolf, it cries out, "Let Britain's housing bubble burst." Wolf is concerned that, with politicians trying to stem the tide away from the purchasing of residences and going back to rentals, they and the lenders will repeat the mistakes that put us in this almost world-wide mortgage calamity. "To fund people to buy property at what may be the start of a slide in prices is like financial debauching of minors."