John McCain makes keynote speech at economic forum on the Downtown campus

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U.S. Sen. John McCain addressed the American Action Forum Thursday concerned for the future of the housing market in Arizona. (Mauro Whiteman / DD)

U.S. Sen. John McCain acted as keynote speaker for an open forum on the U.S. housing crisis Wednesday at the Walter Cronkite School.

The American Action Forum hosted an event, titled “The U.S. Housing Recovery: Lessons from Arizona,” which sought to examine the housing crisis and the market’s current stability.

In his introduction of McCain, American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin described the senator as someone who “wanted to understand what was going on in the housing market and what we could do to help.”

“Forty percent of homes are still underwater in Arizona,” McCain said. “That’s an unacceptable situation and we still have a long, long way to go.”

The senator said he could think of no state more appropriate to host the American Action Forum than Arizona because during the housing market collapse, the state experienced “absolute agony.”

While many were surprised by the collapse, McCain said before the crisis, he was one of the legislators pushing for reforms for government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, who had their “tentacles everywhere.”

McCain said he was disappointed in the lack of disciplinary action taken for responsible parties accountable for the housing market crisis, primarily those in Wall Street and enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

Those responsible were committing terrible abuses right under the noses of those overseeing the situation, including the United States Congress, he said.

Despite his efforts to take away GSE’s government advantages, McCain said the companies’ influence on Congress has not yet diminished.

Jim Tipton, who works in the housing market in Phoenix, said he wasn’t buying McCain’s message.

“There’s a lot of issues and I think government policies won’t help much and may even delay progress,” Tipton said.

McCain expressed disdain toward the current administration’s priorities during the rebuilding of the market, in that Wall Street was taken care of first and homeowners last.

Also, he is disappointed with the lack of movement within Congress recently and predicted the markets will begin to respond negatively.

“It’s always darkest before it’s totally black,” McCain said.

However, if the markets do begin to react poorly, McCain said he’s confident that it will push Washington to act accordingly.

Other speakers in the forum included Phoenix’s vice mayor Michael Johnson, Director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice Michael Orr, Co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker, and Department of Housing and Urban Development Phoenix Field Office Director William Shaw.

“The forum gave a pretty good perspective on what’s actually going on in the market,” real estate agent Jardin Ratzken said. “The analysts and McCain were really great.”

Contact the reporter at kevin.p.fallon@asu.edu