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Can a back-from-the-dead housing market lead the economic recovery?
Economists say the housing market is finally beginning to recover, which could be a huge boon for the economy at large
The housing market is on the rebound, with home prices rising and sales increasing across the country.
The housing market is on the rebound, with home prices rising and sales increasing across the country.
Rolf Bruderer/CORBIS

"Let's call it a housing recovery," says Matthew O'Brien at The Atlantic. Yes, there have been numerous false dawns in the past few years, but many housing analysts say the market is definitely, finally making its long-awaited comeback. "Prices are rising. Sales are increasing. Home builders are clearing lots and raising frames," says Binyamin Appelbaum at The New York Times. And booms in the housing market — which add jobs in the manufacturing and construction industries, and create wealth for homeowners — have historically translated into boom times for the broader economy. Could a rejuvenated housing market lead the economic recovery?

Yes. But the market still needs government help: "It's not hard to imagine a story where housing prices bottom, homebuilding creeps back to more normal levels, and all of that fuels purchases of big-ticket items like cars," says O'Brien. The problem is that credit remains too tight, preventing "this virtuous cycle from getting going." The economy is currently "stuck in limbo," neither a recession nor a recovery, and it will take "one more big push" from Congress to loosen credit and fully unleash the housing market.
"Let's call it a housing recovery"

No. Banks are still recovering from the crisis: A "rebound in the housing market won't be enough to drive America's economic recovery," says Nin-Hai Tseng at Fortune. Housing market recoveries usually signal "stronger economic growth ahead," with the construction of a single house creating 50 jobs, but "economies that have undergone systemic financial crises take much longer to heal than economies responding to normal recessions." Even with the government setting record-low interest rates, banks are still reluctant to lend money to would-be homeowners, preventing them "from taking advantage of one of the cheapest times to buy."
"Why the bright spot in housing won't save the economy"

And the housing market itself could tank: "What we have on our hands is a convalescing but still frail housing market," says Christopher Matthews at TIME. The ongoing debt crisis in Europe, as well as a slowdown in emerging economies like China, could easily "put a damper on the nascent housing market recovery." Sure, "the fever has broken — but it's not time for the patient to get up and start walking around just yet."
"Good news from the construction industry — but will housing take off?"

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