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A Housing Solution that Focuses on (Gasp!) Houses

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Mortgage-based fixes miss the point entirely.

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Every once in a while, the most important news story of the day is the one the Wall Street Journal allots a mere 200 words.

In a move that will soon be greeted with quiet mutterings of "I should have seen this coming," British Prime Minister Gordon Blair announced today a shift in the focus of initiatives aimed at reviving the ailing housing industry, and by extension the rest of the economy.

Until this point, much of the government-directed efforts to fix broken housing markets -- both here and abroad -- have focused on the mortgage side of housing transactions.

This should come as no surprise, as Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs (GS), Merrill Lynch (MER), Lehman Brothers (LEH) and Bear Stearns -- er, JPMorgan (JPM) -- had staked their reputations -- and balance sheets -- on those mortgages.

Foreclosure prevention has attempted to preserve the integrity of the loan by extending its ability to keep generating cash for the lender. If a family or 2 were helped in the process, all the better. But with trillions of dollars in securities propping up the world's financial system based on unreliable monthly payments from struggling American consumers, the mortgage was saved in favor of the property itself or its inhabitants.

HOPE NOW and Project Lifeline have been our bureaucrats' best effort at keeping people from being kicked out of their homes. Anecdotally and by the numbers, the results have been less than awe-inspiring.

As part of a larger economic reform package, Brown is taking a decidedly different approach. Any homeowner behind on his mortgage and facing the risk of repossession will have his situation evaluated by a "money advisor," who, according to the Guardian, will determine whether nor not the loan is worth salvaging.
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