Valley real estate analyst weighs in on president's speech

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- 3TV watched President Obama’s speech in Phoenix with Valley real estate analyst Jim Belfiore.

In the president’s five-point plan, Belfiore said lending was the No. 1 issue that jumped out at him.

“We should simplify overlapping regulations and cut red tape for responsible families who want to get a mortgage but who keep getting rejected by banks,” Obama told the crowd at Desert Vista High School on Tuesday.

“The lending community does need to ease up on restrictions,” said Belfiore of Belfiore Real Estate Consulting.

Many analysts agree current standards are too strict.

The president proposed “winding down” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and allowing private capital to assume a larger role in the mortgage market.

“That would be an ideal situation,” Belfiore said. “Ideally, the private industry would take the risk instead of taxpayers.”

However, Belfiore cautions drastic change will not happen overnight.

“I think the American economy has relied on Fannie and Freddie,” Belfiore said. “It’s not as easy as just winding down those organizations. They’re very intertwined into our mortgage business. I’m not sure that’s something that could be accomplished easily.”

While Obama briefly touched on the topic of construction, local analysts in Arizona agree a lack of inventory is another key part of the recovery equation locally.

“We have a shortage of supply,” Belfiore said. “Until supply starts to circulate, until we have more contractors, I think that’s going to be a challenge.”

Another key topic  that the president raised was the link between immigration reform and the economy. Numbers quoted by the Obama administration based on a recent study indicate immigration reform could lead to 3 million new homeowners.

“Some of them may go out and purchase houses, but I think the link is really related to employment,” Belfiore said. “I think it’s a path to bring them into the economy, into the light, working with reputable companies, homebuilders, lenders or some other industry.”

Outside Desert Vista High School, a group of immigration activists held a demonstration.

“We need actions,” said Carlos Garcia of Puente Arizona. “We’re tired of hearing [Obama] talking about immigration reform and the good it would bring.”

Obama used his speech to call on House lawmakers to pass immigration reform. Other key ideas he proposed Tuesday would also require bipartisan support.

Belfiore said that’s something that could take time, but it’s a start.

“Beginning the discussion doesn’t end the discussion," Belfiore said. "It creates an opportunity for groups to come together and solve problems. To that extent, the president’s plan is a good idea.”