South Carolina’s newest congressman says some government actions on Capitol Hill could hurt the Lowcountry’s real estate recovery. And people who work in the industry agree.
For more on changes to the federal flood insurance program, see Money & Jobs in The Post and Courier on Sunday.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford picked real estate as the theme Friday in the latest in a series of town hall-style meetings he’s been holding since May, when he won the 1st Congressional District seat in a special election.
The former South Carolina governor said it was important for him as a federal lawmaker in Washington to understand what’s happening to the local housing market.
“This brings your feet back to earth ... this shows here’s something that is not working and we may want to tweak this, that or something else,” the Lowcountry Republican said after his remarks to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors in North Charleston.
The local housing recovery has been a hot-button topic this year. Like many markets, the Charleston region is in the midst of a residential rebound that’s been helped by low interest rates and lower home prices compared to years ago, though both have been edging higher.
Friday’s meeting touched on topics such as the reform of the debt-laden federal flood insurance program, the Affordable Health Care Act, mortgage interest rates, and the threat of weakening the Federal Housing Administration’s role in housing financing for first-time and lower-income buyers.
Sanford, who was a partner in a local commercial real estate business before entering politics, spoke for about an hour. He opened with comments on why he was among those in the U.S. House who pushed for a one-year delay of reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program. That legislation is now making its way through the Senate.
Sanford, who called the bill “sensible,” said the federal insurer needs to explain more before implementing changes that trigger a jump in rates.
“I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls from Realtors up and down coast with alarm and what they are seeing is a dramatic increase in terms of premiums,” Sanford said.
Some of the more than 50 real estate professionals who attended the talk raised concerns about home financing, especially the possibility of Congress passing legislation to end Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac in a move that could doom the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Other legislation, if passed, could limit Federal Housing Administration-backed loan amounts and raise down-payment requirements.
“To change a program or to drastically hinder a program such as FHA ... by not having funds available for the people does drastically hurt not only the real estate industry, but the other industries that feed off the housing market,” aid Owen Tyler, president of the local Realtors group.
Tyler also called home ownership “the stability of this country, and when we continue to increase cost of home ownership we put up barriers.”
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.