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Post Tax Credit, Housing Prices Slide Further

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

As NPR's Chris Arnold reports, some economists would like to see more action from Washington.

CHRIS ARNOLD: After crashing down around 30 percent in many areas, home prices appeared to be leveling off a few months ago. That was with the help of a federal homebuyer tax credit. But in recent months, after that tax credit expired, prices in many areas have been sliding lower again.

CHRIS MAYER: And those foreclosures are starting to push prices down again.

ARNOLD: Chris Mayer is an economist with Columbia University. He says he'd like to see Congress and the Obama administration do more to shore up housing.

MAYER: I think the government has just looked and said, you know what, we've done a bunch of stuff with housing, nothing's really worked, maybe we'll just sort of hope for the best.

ARNOLD: Mayer says that's a mistake because the market is still very fragile. And he thinks it's become too hard for average people to qualify to buy a home or even just to refinance. As the new Congress gets underway, Mayer hopes that legislation will move forward that could make it easier for millions of Americans to qualify to refinance.

MAYER: I think the government can still help those people. You know, you're talking about savings in many cases of hundreds of dollars a month - a big amount for households that are struggling to get by.

ARNOLD: Chris Arnold, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996 and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.