Isakson: Housing will lead recovery

The tax credits for first-time and some repeat home buyers should help spark a rebound in the housing industry and, as a result, the economy, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said Thursday.

“What led this economy into the deep recession we are now in will lead us out, and that’s the housing market,” Isakson said at the Middle Georgia Realtors Association’s membership luncheon.

Isakson noted that his speech came one week after Congress voted to extend and expand the tax credit, which had been set to expire Nov. 30. First-time home buyers can still qualify for a credit of up to $8,000, while the new law adds a credit of up to $6,500 for some repeat “move-up” buyers.

“That opens up a significant amount of the marketplace,” Isakson said.

To qualify, buyers must have a contract in place before May 1 and close the deal before July 1.

“This tax extension will be the last,” Isakson warned. “We don’t want a housing market that requires an incentive.“

The new law offers more generous income limits. To qualify for the full $8,000, single buyers can earn up to $75,000 and couples can earn up to $225,000. The new law also includes measures to prevent fraud, Isakson said.

The credits should help carry the housing market through its traditionally slow winter months and “move into the spring months with a new vitality.”

Isakson was welcomed by the Realtors group as “one of our own.” In 1967, he opened the Atlanta-area Northside Realty, which is now the largest independent real estate brokerage company in the Southeast.

Isakson also touched on several other subjects, including health-care reform. He said the government’s role should be to provide an “appropriate safety net for the poor and aged.”

As for the 15 percent of uninsured Americans, that problem needs to be addressed with a “step-by-step approach,” rather than a massive overhaul to a government-run, single-payer system, he said.

“We address our health-care challenges, but we don’t destroy the greatest health-care system in the world.”

The House of Representatives last week narrowly passed a bill that includes a “public option” for government insurance. Isakson said that any reform with a public option faces a “difficult slog” in the Senate.

“I don’t believe a government option will survive the Senate,” he said.

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.