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Few housing solutions offered in presidential race

Associated Press Modified: October 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm •  Published: October 31, 2012
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HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — This suburb in a battleground state is pockmarked with half-built subdivisions, foreclosed homes and voters like Leslie Levin.

Levin, who retired from his job as a real estate attorney at age 49, is not the sort to pine for big government programs. But he is steadily losing the rental properties he owns, and watching friends and neighbors lose their own nest eggs and homes.

Six out of 10 Nevadans owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

"I'm a hard-core Republican, but this is wrong," said Levin, 69. "How many families have suffered because of these banks?"

In many parts of the country, the housing market is on the rebound, with home values up, inventory tight and new housing construction rebounding. But here and in hotly contested Florida, the damage to the housing market is still painfully visible. Even though President Barack Obama and rival Mitt Romney have logged dozens of hours campaigning in these states, they rarely delve into the housing issue. Neither candidate has made it a centerpiece of his campaign.

"Housing is not really a winner of an issue for either candidate," said Jed Kolko, chief economist of the housing website Trulia.com. "Obama doesn't have big policy successes to point to, which he would need as the incumbent, and Romney doesn't have bold new policy proposals."

That's because housing is generally not a winning issue, especially with the bulk of the damage confined to a few Sun Belt states, including California and Arizona, which are not in play in this election.

"With almost any housing policy, it's very difficult to separate who is behind on their payments and about to lose their home for reasons beyond their control from those who might be benefiting from a bailout," Kolko said.

Romney last month released a housing plan, but five of the seven pages are devoted to criticizing Obama and the document contains few concrete recommendations. Obama doesn't mention housing in the 20-page booklet his campaign circulated last week to outline his second-term agenda.

When Obama took office in 2009, the housing market, like the overall economy, was in free-fall. Home prices had plunged by about a third nationwide.

The Obama campaign says the president can take at least some credit for the rebound.

"The administration has put forward a plan to help more responsible borrowers refinance their mortgages, saving hundreds of dollars per month, while taking concrete steps to help families stay in their homes, revitalize the communities hardest-hit by the housing crisis, and reform the mortgage lending market to better protect both consumers and taxpayers," said Obama campaign spokesman Adam Fetcher.

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