Housing bailout backlash

For every political action, there’s usually an outraged reaction.

The agreement has sparked bitterness and anger among those who either sat out the housing boom or endured friends’ snickers when they stuck with a traditional mortgage and a smaller house. To some who watched prices rise out of their reach or who moved to cheaper cities, the agreement looks like a penalty for those who didn’t gamble.

“What about those of us who played by the rules? Can we get six months of free gasoline? Isn’t there something for the rest of us?” asked Tim MacKinnon. After watching a friend use his home as an “ATM” for years, MacKinnon left Washington for New Jersey, where the $25,000 he had socked away went further.

The resentment is apparent on blogs that chronicle the mortgage crisis. It has some Republican lawmakers worried about a backlash.

As always in Washington, politics as opposed to principle is driving the response.

“The epicenter of this problem [is] places with key electoral votes,” said Christopher Mayer, director of the Milstein Center for Real Estate at Columbia Business School. “I think both sides have to figure out what to do. I don’t think they are going to find it such an easy” thing.

Politicians need to appeal not only to people at risk of losing their homes but also to those such as Ben Sullivan, who sees the agreement as a undeserved bailout. After the 2001 technology stock bust, many people lost significant value in their retirement plans, Sullivan said. “No one was offering to pay for their 401(k) losses. Why should they do it for their housing losses?” said the 28-year-old commercial banker.

That’s a good question.