Syron at BC: Economic downturn was inevitable
If it wasn't the housing market, something else would have triggered the current economic trauma, according to former Freddie Mac chief executive Richard Syron.
In one of his first appearances since being ousted as head of the mortgage giant last year, Syron spoke to an asset management conference at Boston College today about the causes of the steep recession.
Syron, an economist who once led the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, declined to discuss anything about Freddie Mac or its mortgage business. Instead, he spoke broadly about the economy and its problems, citing vast amounts money in search of higher yields as a driving force behind the sharp economic decline.
"If it hadn't been housing it would have been something else," he said, meaning that some other kind of asset would have become inflated in value and caused economic pain if the housing market had not overheated.
Syron said the climbing rate of home ownership among Americans this decade, well above historical averages, may not have been such a good thing for the economy. But he declined to answer a question from the audience about the appropriate role for government in encouraging home ownership and assisting buyers finance homes.
"That's such a political thicket," Syron said. "I'm not sure my ideas are any better than anyone else's."
He left Freddie Mac last November, two months after the federal government seized the mortgage finance company.
(By Steven Syre, Globe staff)