The following is particularly important:
Many of the losses in housing markets cannot be avoided because they are the result of lax credit standards and otherwise excessive underpriced risk taking in the past. Policymakers cannot undo all those losses, and attempting to do so would reward the excessive risk taking, which could encourage excessive risk taking in the future, and shift the losses from borrowers and lenders to taxpayers.
A possible role for policymakers is to help the housing and mortgage markets cope with the aftereffects of the end of the housing boom. Some actions (described below) have already been taken.38 Policymakers may consider other proposals for helping mortgage markets overcome impediments to changing terms of troubled mortgage loans, which could both reduce lenders’ losses and help homeowners. Policymakers may also consider increasing opportunities for subprime borrowers to refinance mortgage loans. Both actions would help avoid foreclosures, eliminating one source of downward pressure on house prices. Finally, policymakers might be able to help stabilize the subprime mortgage market by establishing or empowering an agency to buy subprime loans. Such an option, however, could significantly shift mortgage losses from current lenders and investors to taxpayers.
Important factors to note, however, are that house prices are likely to fall farther before the housing correction is complete and that misguided policies can make matters worse. Policies that work against the market’s necessary adjustments may delay the recovery of financial markets and impair the pace of economic activity. One example is the forbearance policy of Japanese bank regulators during Japan’s recession of the 1990s. By allowing Japanese banks to delay recognizing losses on real estate and other loans after Japan’s real estate boom ended in 1990, the policy helped delay the recovery of Japan’s banks.