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Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and FDIC Chairwoman Shelia Bair battled it out on Capitol Hill today over competing plans for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Plan funds.
House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D. Mass.) bashed Paulson for shifting his plan for the bailout funds, investing the money in healthy banks rather than buying the troubled mortgages he originally said he would. “The fundamental policy issue is our disappointment that funds are not being used to supplement mortgage foreclosure reduction,” Frank said.
Bair, meanwhile, told lawmakers the money should be used to prevent foreclosures. Her plan is to use some of the money to encourage banks to renegotiate loans by guaranteging that lenders get some money back if the loans later fail. Bair says her plan could prevent 1.5 million foreclosures.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he supports Bair’s approach. Paulson defended his strategy saying the direct investments were needed to shore up the financial system and the best way to support housing prices is for banks to now use that federal money to provide low cost loans.
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.