Older Americans have the AARP to advocate on their behalf. Now, a group of housing industry veterans has launched a similar organization with the stated goal of looking out for the interests of homeowners.

The America's Homeowner Alliance will seek to promote public policies that support sustainable home ownership while informing and involving homeowners on major issues related to home ownership. The new lobby officially opened for business today, soliciting memberships from among the nation's 75 million homeowners.

Leadership from business and consumer groups

The organization's leadership consists of veterans of the financial and real estate industries, as well as representatives of major consumer and community development organizations. It's the brainchild of founder and Chairman Phil Bracken, a former Wells Fargo executive and currently the co-chair of the Consumer/Lender Roundtable and head of the Housing Recovery Alliance in Washington, D.C.

"In terms of public policy, America's homeowners have never had a collective voice of their own to promote their best interests," Bracken said in announcing the launch of the group. "It's time to take America's homeowners off the menu and give them a seat at the table."

The group intends to address both government and private policies in order to serve as a type of ombudsman for homeowners, providing protection against abusive or bad policies while serving as an advocate to advance pro-homeowner public policies while opposing those it deems harmful to those interests.

Mortgage deduction, credit are priorities

Its immediate goals include 1) defending the mortgage interest tax deduction, 2) preserving access to low down-payment mortgages, 3) maintaining the availability of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, 4) promoting the availability of mortgage credit at reasonable cost, 5) reducing the role of government in providing mortgage credit and bringing more private capital into the marketplace, 6) addressing the lack of credit for new home construction and 7) preserving home values.

There has been some talk of eliminating the mortgage interest deduction as a deficit-reduction measure, and encouraging larger down payments on mortgages is seen by many as an effective way to guard against a recurrence of the housing bubble that led to the Great Recession.

It's widely assumed, however, that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage Americans have become accustomed to can only exist with government backing, so balancing that need with the stated goal of reducing government's role in the marketplace may be a challenge.

Like the AARP, the Alliance intends to provide tangible benefits to its members as an incentive to join the organization and pay its dues of $20 a year. The initial benefit is participation in a rewards program involving more than 1,000 merchants in which members can earn points that can be redeemed for merchandise, travel or other benefits.

Published on September 4, 2013