Housing plan signed, but concerns linger

San Francisco Chronicle- The giant housing rescue plan President Bush signed Wednesday might help stanch the bleeding in the housing market, but experts on both sides of the political divide worry that it is, at best, only an emergency step.

In addition to $300 billion in government guarantees to aid homeowners threatened by foreclosure, the administration got extraordinary new powers to backstop mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after their stocks plunged earlier this month. The legislation gives both companies an open line of credit at the U.S. Treasury and allows the government to buy the companies’ stock through 2009. In return, the companies get a tough new regulator.

But both firms remain weird hybrid entities whose profits are private but whose losses are public, a recipe for excessive risk-taking. The new law makes the government guarantee explicit, exposing taxpayers to losses that could dwarf the savings & loan bailouts of the 1980s that cost taxpayers $300 billion in today’s dollars.

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