The battle over extending the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers has begun in Congress.

Everyone knew this battle was coming. The tax credit is enormously popular — just like the cash-for-clunkers program. One could reasonably argue the tax credit and cash-for-clunkers are the only two truly popular stimulus programs aimed at the middle-class, amid the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on bailing out banks, insurers and others.

But extension of the tax credit, due to expire Nov. 30, is not the “no brainer” move that some think. There are legitimate concerns it could become a full-time, expensive government entitlement program. There are also fears that the housing sector will become addicted to the tax credit, disrupting normal market cycles, as potentional homeowners make purchase calculations based on what Congress might do rather than on what they should do in the future. Sooner or later, the housing market has to stand up on its own two feet.

Still, there are serious concerns about a double-dip recession and the fragile nature of the housing market recovery/stabilization that we’re now seeing in some parts of the country. An extension through next spring makes sense, as long as everyone understands that the second deadline is the final deadline.

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