Modernizing FHA can aid homebuyers
When the author of "FHA must not abandon its mission" (Opinion * Commentary, June 28) testified at a House hearing on April 5, she received bipartisan criticism for her misleading and inaccurate portrait of proposed legislation to modernize the Federal Housing Administration.
Reps. Maxine Waters (a Democrat) and Gary G. Miller (a Republican), in particular, took great exception to her argument that the proposal would make FHA mortgage financing more costly for lower-income homebuyers.
In fact, the legislation would do exactly the opposite.
A modernized FHA would charge borrowers less than the rates they can get under the two alternatives currently available to credit-impaired borrowers - taking out "sub-prime" loans with substantially higher interest rates or taking market-rate loans with expensive private mortgage insurance.
The author is right, however, when she states that "it is important that the FHA remain relevant in today's lending market."
That's exactly the intent of the proposed legislation.
For years, the FHA has been hampered by outdated legislation that constrains the agency's ability to reach the very people it's supposed to serve.
Antiquated down-payment requirements, unrealistic loan limits and a "one-size-fits-all" insurance premium structure are driving first-time homebuyers and those with lower incomes or impaired credit away from the FHA and toward more costly mortgage alternatives.
Lenders, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and homebuilders all understand that the FHA does not compete with the industry. In fact, the FHA complements the private market and expands the borrower pool, resulting in more business for everyone.
In addition, low- to moderate- income homebuyers would be the prime beneficiaries of this legislation - they'll get a safer mortgage at a fair price.
Brian D. Montgomery
The writer is federal housing commissioner for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Rising death toll casts pall on holiday
This was a sad Fourth of July because as the number of our American soldiers who have died in Iraq rises inexorably toward 3,000, our president, who once strutted on an aircraft carrier deck in a borrowed flight suit to proclaim "Mission Accomplished," keeps bellowing at us to stay the course ("Bush gives holiday pep talk to troops at Fort Bragg, N.C.," July 5).
Yet a growing number of Americans are beginning to realize that this senseless, unnecessary war, like that other senseless, unnecessary war in Vietnam, may already be lost.
Must this nation dither endlessly while 1,000 more of its sons and daughters die? And more thousands after that?
Congress and the president were years late in finally coming to their senses and getting America out of the Vietnam quagmire.
Now, that ghastly delay is being repeated.
President confuses war with patriotism
President Bush did what he does best on his visit to Fort Bragg on Independence Day: conflating support for the misadventure in Iraq with American patriotism and calling our failure there a success ("Bush gives holiday pep talk to troops at Fort Bragg, N.C.," July 5)
Smoking bans boost the restaurant trade
The Sun was right to push for a smoke-free law in Baltimore in its editorial "Hurry up, please" (July 2).
I am tired of the argument that smoking bans will cause bars and restaurants to lose business.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 21 percent of Americans smoke. Speaking for myself, I will not go to any bar that permits smoking. If there were a smoking ban in bars and restaurants, they would get more of my business - and they might gain business from the vast majority of nonsmokers in the state.
It is time for a smoking ban, not just in Baltimore but throughout the state.
Bush right to adopt hard line on Syria
The Sun's editorial "Deadlines and demands" (July 4) argues that Hamas leaders in Syria are to be blamed for the most recent Palestinian-Israeli confrontation but says "the Bush administration's demonization of Syria ... hasn't helped matters, either."
This is confusing.
Despite the Bush administration's faults (and there have been quite a few), its position on the rogue state of Syria has been appropriate.
And the Bush administration certainly cannot be rebuked or be considered responsible for the actions of the leaders of Hamas and other terrorist organizations that are permitted to operate freely in Syria with the blessing of its government.
Furthermore, the editorial laments that the United States and its European allies have isolated the new Palestinian leadership.
But when Hamas rescinds the statement in its charter calling for the destruction of Israel and when Gaza is no longer a launching pad for missiles fired daily at Israeli citizens, then Hamas should be treated as a governing body - rather than as the terrorist organization that it now truly is.