Selling a Home? The D.C. Down Payment Assistance Program Will Give You Up to $202,000.

“the mayor urged residents to take advantage of the city’s newly expanded Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP). Starting October 1, the program will provide residents with up to $202,000 in interest-free loans to help cover the costs of a first-time home purchase, plus an additional $4,000 to help cover closing costs.
The decades-old program previously provided home purchasers with $80,000 in interest-free loans. The increase is justified, officials argue, by today’s hot housing market.

“We knew we had to do something to make the program more viable for potential home buyers,” Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio told The Washington Post last week. “We wanted our residents to be the most prepared as they go into this hot housing market.”

D.C. is certainly an expensive place to buy a home.

The real estate listing company Zillow says the typical D.C. home is worth $707,747—roughly twice the typical home cost nationally. Prices have increased 9 percent so far this year, according to the Case-Shiller home price index. That’s slightly more than the national increase in prices but far less than the 20-plus percent increases in such cities as Atlanta and Tampa.

These interest-free loans will probably increase those prices further. Indeed, the value of that subsidy is more likely to be captured by home sellers than by homebuyers.

The whole purpose of down payment assistance is to get more people to buy homes. That’s another way of saying that it is increasing the demand for home purchases. Economics 101 tells you that increasing demand, all else being equal, will increase prices. Homebuyers with more money can be less price-sensitive, and home sellers can be choosier about purchasers. All that encourages those sellers to increase prices.”

“In a normal market, you’d expect price increases to induce a supply effect. More demand encourages suppliers to enter a market, which helps moderate price increases.

But don’t expect to see much of that in D.C.’s housing market. For starters, the city has only so many vacant or redevelopable plots of land where new housing could go. Redeveloping existing housing into more units is constrained by the city’s zoning laws and historic preservation rules. Meanwhile, rising inflation and persistent supply-chain issues have caused new home construction to plummet, as high material costs make builders less willing to take on new projects.”

Mitt Romney’s Family Plan Isn’t Great, but It May Be Better Than the Alternatives

“According to Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah), America’s current welfare policies have two major flaws: They penalize recipients who get married by reducing the benefits they’re eligible for, and they don’t do enough to help couples afford to have more kids.

“There’s a growing gap between the number of children people say they want to have and the number they actually decide to have,” he said during an event yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C. “Just to be clear here, I don’t think the goal of policy should be to try to create incentives to have people have more children than they want, but instead should find a way to bridge the gap between what people would like to add to their family and what they’re able to afford.”

Attempting to address these issues, Romney in June released the Family Security Act 2.0, a proposal to send parents monthly checks of between $250 and $700 per child, beginning midway through a pregnancy. A household would need to have earned at least $10,000 the previous year to be eligible for the full benefit, a provision meant to keep families from dropping out of the work force entirely. The program would be “paid for” by reducing or eliminating various existing income tax breaks.

It’s hard to fault efforts to resolve distortions introduced by previous federal policy, including the whoopsie-daisy of incentivizing low-income couples to remain unmarried. The idea that it’s the government’s job to help people have more kids rests on a more debatable assumption—namely, that parents should not have to shoulder the full cost of raising future members of society.

Regardless of whether you buy that “positive externalities” argument, the federal government does spend billions each year on family programs. Given that these efforts are not likely to go away (however much libertarian purists might wish otherwise), it’s worth considering whether Romney’s proposal represents at least an incremental improvement over the status quo.”

Biden Expands Dubious Subsidies for Manufacturers

“For nearly 90 years, the Export-Import Bank of the United States has subsidized foreign purchases of goods produced by politically connected American businesses. Now it will start loaning money to U.S. companies that do little or no business overseas.

In April, the Ex-Im Bank’s board of directors voted unanimously to launch a new “Make More in America” initiative aimed at subsidizing American manufacturers instead of their foreign customers. Rather than unwinding and abolishing the Ex-Im Bank, as some fiscal conservatives have been trying to do for years, this new program is likely to further entrench the bank’s role in federal industrial policy.

“This is worse than mission creep,” says Sen. Pat Toomey (R–Pa.), the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee and a longtime skeptic of the Ex-Im Bank. “There is no reason that taxpayers should have to back domestic financing when we live in a highly developed market economy in which promising businesses have access to capital on competitive terms.”

Toomey submitted a series of questions to Ex-Im Bank President Reta Jo Lewis about the new program. The answers he received are telling.

In response to Toomey’s request for evidence that a new domestic loan program is needed, Lewis wrote that “it is difficult” to identify a financing shortage, noting that “U.S. capital markets are deep and liquid.” Where there are “gaps,” she said, they exist among “non-investment grade or unrated borrowers.”

Applicants for the new loans, Lewis said, “will need to demonstrate that the required financing is not otherwise available from the private sector.” In other words, these loans will go to projects that private capital markets have deemed too risky to finance.

The Ex-Im Bank’s low-interest loans to overseas buyers of American goods have long benefited companies like Boeing, which can undercut foreign competition with the U.S. government’s help. But there is little evidence that the Ex-Im Bank has actually boosted American exports.

From 2014 to 2018, the bank was effectively shut down when conservatives in Congress temporarily suspended its lending authority. American exports nevertheless grew from $2.3 trillion to a then-record $2.5 trillion during that period.

Former President Donald Trump signed a bill reauthorizing the bank in 2018. President Joe Biden now plans to expand its mandate. Having failed to prove its worth in the global marketplace, the Ex-Im Bank will waste taxpayer money here at home.”

Biden’s Regulatory Wish List Will Make Infrastructure Projects More Expensive

“It would be terrific if the Biden administration intended to truly “update and modernize” the Davis-Bacon Act, namely by hollowing it out and allowing workers to truly compete for federal construction contracts in a field where wages are not preemptively set, regardless of the applicant’s experience. After passing an infrastructure bill that was considerably smaller than originally proposed, any opportunities to cut costs should be obvious winners. Unfortunately, despite the new rule’s lack of specificity, Biden’s previous rhetoric on the law is discouraging.

“When President Obama put Vice President Biden in charge of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Biden made sure that Davis-Bacon Act and Service Contract Act standards were strictly enforced, requiring that the prevailing wage be paid to construction workers and service workers on all projects funded by ARRA,” noted Biden’s campaign website. “As president, Biden will build on this success by ensuring that every federal investment in infrastructure and transportation projects or service jobs is covered by prevailing wage protections.”

In “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” signed a week after he took office, Biden stipulated that “agencies shall, consistent with applicable law, apply and enforce the Davis-Bacon Act and prevailing wage and benefit requirements.” And in his February remarks to labor leaders regarding his plans for a future infrastructure spending bill, Biden indicated that he expected the legislation to create “jobs—good-paying jobs, Davis-Bacon and prevailing wage jobs.”

From Biden’s statements on the subject, it’s clear that any of his proposed “updates” to the Davis-Bacon Act would not make it easier to hire contractors at market rates.”

Plans for Extended Unemployment Benefits, Wage Subsidies Risk Creating a Zombie Economy

“the states that have reopened have seen anemic economic recoveries at best.

Slate’s Jordan Weissman, using data from the app Open Table, notes that restaurant reservations are down as much as 92 percent from last year in those states that have allowed dining rooms to reopen.

A ranking of state jobless claims released yesterday by the personal finance website Wallethub finds that the number of people applying for unemployment is especially high in Connecticut, which had a bad COVID-19 outbreaks and a strict shutdown order, but also in Georgia and South Dakota. The former is lifting its shutdown order, and the latter never imposed one.

This matches with new research showing that economic activity declined at similar rates regardless of when states issued formal lockdown orders. Individuals, not the government, shut the economy down. They’ll also decide when, or if, it reopens.”

“if we can’t expect much of the pre-pandemic economic activity to return, that dramatically weakens the case for propping up businesses as Jayapal and Hawley want to do, or paying workers to stay jobless like the HEROES Act does. Both policies stymie markets’ ability to adjust to COVID-19 while shifting resources from those parts of the economy that can be productive during a pandemic to those that can’t. If there’s no demand for air travel, we’d be better off seeing baggage handlers shift to being warehouse workers or grocery delivery drivers. We want cooks and cashiers to move to restaurants that can figure out a way to stay profitable without dining service.

That doesn’t mean the government can’t provide relief. Even if we allow those readjustments to happen, we’ll still probably have a less productive economy for a while, and the negative effects of that will be concentrated on people who aren’t in a position to adapt. So there’s a reasonable case for cash transfers targeting the poorest Americans. But they shouldn’t be conditioned on staying at their current jobs, and—unlike unemployment benefits—they shouldn’t be conditioned on staying out of the labor force altogether.”

Scrapping a subsidy to homeowners

“In the February issue of the American Economic Review, researchers Kamila Sommer and Paul Sullivan consider the implications for the US housing market if this $90 billion subsidy to homeowners were to be scrapped. They find that getting rid of it would actually improve overall welfare by lowering home prices and expanding opportunities for home ownership among younger and lower-income households.
“The people who are the primary beneficiaries of the deduction are the high-income households,” Sommer said in an interview with the AEA. “When you take it away, house prices fall, they consume less housing, live in smaller houses…but the decline in house prices reduces the entry cost for the marginal households that are previously renting. It’s almost like this reallocation of housing from high-income households to low-income households.”

Critics say the mortgage interest deduction is a regressive tax policy that inflates prices and encourages buyers to choose more expensive houses and take on debt rather than sinking money into other investments. It also robs the Treasury of tax revenue that could be used to close the deficit. But real estate lobbyists say its repeal would depress homeownership and negatively impact social welfare.”

“More than half of all existing homeowners — 58 percent — would see their consumption improve after the reform, with most of the benefits going to young, low-income households. Rich homeowners with big properties suffer the most, since they have outsized amounts of mortgage interest that can be deducted from their income tax burden. When that benefit goes away they end up bearing the brunt of the impact.

It’s less certain whether there would be any meaningful impact on tax revenue for the government, the authors say. Getting rid of the deduction leads to a 2.6 percent increase in income tax revenue, but the falling home prices translate to a 7.8 percent drop in property tax revenue. Overall, it’s essentially a wash, with a total revenue gain of just one-half of a percentage point.”