Washington hears from interest groups that represent everything from medical specialties to cattlemen to professional wrestlers. Now there's an organization for one of the largest constituencies in the country: homeowners.
The current homeownership rate in the United States is 65 percent (down from a high of more than 69 percent in 2004), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
America's Homeowner Alliance (AHA) is the brainchild of Phil Bracken, a former executive of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and now the chief policy officer of government relations for Radian Guaranty, a private mortgage insurer. "If you're not at the table having your voice heard," he says, "then you are on the menu."
The organization's Facebook page says that it will "protect and promote sustainable homeownership for all segments of America."
Lisa Rice, a vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance and a member of Bracken's advisory board, says the new group can serve consumers better than housing-industry trade associations. "Realtors represent Realtors; builders represent builders," she told the Los Angeles Times." There is no group that is only looking out for and taking care of homeowners."
The group, based in St. Louis, will have its work cut out for it in Washington. As lawmakers discuss overhauling the tax code, the home-mortgage deduction could become an issue. And in the wake of the housing crash, President Obama and Congress are working on winding down the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Bracken is hoping for a lot of voices being heard - 5 million members within five years. AHA will be a membership organization with dues of $20 a year and a discount program for members, according to the L.A. Times story. The group's website says that it aims to be the AARP of homeownership.
Homeownership rates nationally are highest among older Americans, according to the Census Bureau. Nearly 82 percent of people 65 or older are homeowners. Nearly 77 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64, and nearly 71 percent of those ages 45 to 54, own homes.
An AARP study published last year found that foreclosures are increasingly a threat to older Americans. As of December 2011, 3.5 million people ages 50 or older owed more on their mortgages than the property was worth; 600,000 were in foreclosure; and another 625,000 were 90 days or more behind in mortgage payments.
Photo: woodleywonderworks via Flickr
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