MBA's Stevens Weighs Pros, Cons of Clinton, Trump Administrations

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Regardless of who wins in November, the mortgage industry will see significant changes, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would take different approaches to housing and regulatory issues, according to Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO David Stevens.

Stevens declined to indicate a preference for either candidate during an exclusive interview with National Mortgage News, reiterating that the organization is non-partisan and does not endorse political candidates. But he did outline the different ways in which the major party candidates would influence the industry.

"There are advantages and disadvantages to either party and either candidate based on how they're talking about housing so far," Stevens said. "There's potential strengths in the platforms on both sides."

Clinton's platform "focuses a lot on the demand side of housing, new programs to help first-time homebuyers and the rental markets," he said, based on what her campaign has published regarding housing. Indeed, Stevens outlined some of the specific measures the Clinton campaign has laid out, such as matching savings plans for first-time homebuyers and affordable rental efforts.

Trump, meanwhile, would be more keen on rolling back regulation, Stevens said.

"The Trump platform clearly leans more heavily into reducing what they perceive as regulatory overreach for lack of a better way of describing it," he said. That overreach serves to impede the housing market overall in the Trump campaign's view, Stevens said, based on their comments.

Those views echo efforts in the House GOP leadership recently to repeal some of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's efforts.

This is not to say that a Clinton administration would ignore concerns surrounding regulation, though.

"Her platform does call for gaining better clarity on the rules," he said. "That leans in the right direction."

But he noted that the association would not expect a Clinton administration "to do much to unwind much of the regulation that's come into place."

As for the role government plays in guaranteeing mortgages, Stevens looked to the past precedent set by both parties vis-à-vis the legislation they have brought forth. On one end of the spectrum, he put the Republican-sponsored Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act, which would wind down the government's role in housing in favor of a private system, and on the other end he placed the work Democrats did behind the scenes for the Johnson-Crapo reform bill that kept a greater role for government in housing finance comparatively.

Overall though, Stevens stressed the importance of having a seat at the table with either administration. "Nothing is more important than engaging pretty aggressively with the next administration."

"There hasn't been a lot of talk about housing — there has been a lot of talk about a variety of subjects," he said. With "either candidate and whichever party ultimately takes the White House in the next administration, we're hoping we can expand the dialogue because it is such an important part of the economy."

Stevens also addressed his comments made during a recent television appearance regarding the mortgage interest deduction.

"My response was to not be close-minded, but to make sure that anybody asking that question needs to realize you're messing with the middle-class homebuyer when you're talking about the MID," he said. "One cannot look at it in an isolated fashion. If there's some comprehensive tax reform — where comprehensive means comprehensive — it will likely be considered, and we're going to be engaged."

Nevertheless, he echoed his comments made in the interview on how first-time homebuyers who do not itemize their taxes don't get the benefit of the deduction.

This story has been updated from an earlier version.

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