Immediate Housing Challenges for Obama

Now that the race for the White House is over, still-President Obama must move quickly to answer the housing-related challenges facing the federal government. Inman News looks closer at decisions that will have to be made in the coming weeks:

1. The “fiscal cliff”: The fiscal cliff is a series of tax increases and spending cuts that will go into effect unless U.S. lawmakers come up with an alternative plan to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The spending cuts, known as “sequestrations,” would automatically go into effect on Jan. 2 and be split evenly between defense spending and domestic spending.

2. The mortgage interest deduction (MID): Revamping the mortgage interest deduction is one of the solutions proposed to head off the fiscal cliff and could be part of a broader plan to streamline the tax code by eliminating some loopholes and deductions. Some experts have said the MID, which costs the government about $90 billion a year, is unlikely to survive in its present form, though what would take its place, if anything, is unclear.

3. Mortgage debt forgiveness: Another homeowner tax break may be on the table in fiscal negotiations: the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, which is set to expire at the end of this year. The law exempts up to $2 million in mortgage debt forgiven by a lender in a short sale, loan modification or foreclosure from federal taxation. The law applies only to mortgage debt incurred to fund the purchase or improvement of a principal residence.

4. Qualified mortgages: Now that we know the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is here to stay — presidential candidate Mitt Romney had vowed to repeal it — there are two controversial rules contained within the law that are waiting to be finalized: the qualified mortgage (QM) and the qualified residential mortgage (QRM).