Good Intentions Gone Bad in the Housing Market

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The housing/credit crisis has a lot of causes and plenty of parents, in both the public and private sectors. One man who’s been involved in housing at the highest levels of government and at the most intimate levels of a local community is Henry Cisneros, the former mayor of San Antonio and Bill Clinton’s original Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Through the years, Cisneros has championed the cause of turning more Americans into homeowners. Unfortunately, his well-intentioned crusade has had some disastrous results.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an excellent article detailing Cisneros’ decades-long involvement in housing, from his decisions while HUD secretary to his involvement with KB Homes and Countrywide Financial. Along the way, he made many influential decisions that helped soften the mortgage market . He was also the key mover of a San Antonio housing development now wracked with foreclosures and other problems.

While Cisneros has made good money – enough that some could reasonably assume he’s been an opportunist – those of us in San Antonio know he truly does care about housing and helping people lead better, more secure lives. But, as the article shows, his idealism (and possibly his hubris as well) blinded him to many of the risks inherent in increasing the percentage of homeowners.

If you have a moment, read the whole article. It’s a fascinating portrayal of the housing crisis.