REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

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April 1, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

March 31, 2016

Surveying Financial Well-Being

By David Reiss

photo by Sean MacEntee

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a notice and request for comment on the Financial Well-Being National Survey. The CFPB is asking for comments on

(a) Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Bureau, including whether the information will have practical utility; (b) The accuracy of the Bureau’s estimate of the burden of the collection of information, including the validity of the methods and the assumptions used; (c) Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. (81 F.R.13778)

The first question is of great importance and it is great that the CFPB is asking it. As I have frequently noted, financial education efforts have not been all that successful.  Moreover, efforts to improve financial literacy have often had perverse results.

My first instinct is that there is no harm in conducting the Financial Well-Being National Survey. It asks questions such as “How would you assess your overall financial knowledge?” and “How confident are you that the way you are managing money today is getting you to the results you want?” (5)

The key question that remains, however, is will the answers to such questions actually help shape consumer protection policy in a productive way? The CFPB should be sure that the answer to that question is yes before proceeding with the Survey.

Comments are due soon, on April 14th.  Get crackin’!

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March 31, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

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March 31, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

March 30, 2016

Road to GSE Reform

By David Reiss

photo by Antonio Correa

A bevy of housing finance big shots have issued a white paper, A More Promising Road to GSE Reform. The main objective of the proposal

is to migrate those components of today’s system that work well into a system that is no longer impaired by the components that do not, with as little disruption as possible. To do this, our proposal would merge Fannie and Freddie to form a single government corporation, which would handle all of the operations that those two institutions perform today, providing an explicit federal guarantee on mortgage-backed securities while syndicating all noncatastrophic credit risk into the private market. This would facilitate a deep, broad and competitive primary and secondary mortgage market; limit the taxpayer’s risk to where it is absolutely necessary; ensure broad access to the system for borrowers in all communities; and ensure a level playing field for lenders of all sizes.

The government corporation, which here we will call the National Mortgage Reinsurance Corporation, or NMRC, would perform the same functions as do Fannie and Freddie today. The NMRC would purchase conforming single-family and multifamily mortgage loans from originating lenders or aggregators, and issue securities backed by these loans through a single issuing platform that the NMRC owns and operates. It would guarantee the timely payment of principal and interest on the securities and perform master servicing responsibilities on the underlying loans, including setting and enforcing servicing and loan modification policies and practices. It would ensure access to credit in historically underserved communities through compliance with existing affordable-housing goals and duty-to-serve requirements. And it would provide equal footing to all lenders, large and small, by maintaining a “cash window” for mortgage purchases.

The NMRC would differ from Fannie and Freddie, however, in several important respects. It would be required to transfer all noncatastrophic credit risk on the securities that it issues to a broad range of private entities. Its mortgage-backed securities would be backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, for which it would charge an explicit guarantee fee, or g-fee, sufficient to cover any risk that the government takes. And while the NMRC would maintain a modest portfolio with which to manage distressed loans and aggregate single- and multifamily loans for securitization, it cannot use that portfolio for investment purposes. Most importantly, as a government corporation, the NMRC would be motivated neither by profit nor market share, but by a mandate to balance broad access to credit with the safety and soundness of the mortgage market. (2-3, footnotes omitted)

The authors of the white paper are

  • Jim Parrott, former Obama Administration housing policy guru
  • Lewis Ranieri, a Wall Street godfather of the securitized mortgage market
  • Gene Sperling,  Obama Administration National Economic Advisor
  • Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist
  • Barry Zigas, Director of Housing Policy at Consumer Federation of America

While I think the proposal has a lot going for it, I think that the lack of former Republican government officials as co-authors is telling. Members of Congress, such as Chair of the House Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensaerling  (R-TX), have taken extreme positions that leave little room for the level of government involvement contemplated in this white paper. So, I would say that the proposal has a low likelihood of success in the current political environment.

That being said, the proposal is worth considering because we’ll have to take Fannie and Freddie out of their current state of limbo at some point in the future. The proposal builds on on current developments that have been led by Fannie and Freddie’s regulator and conservator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The FHFA has required Fannie and Freddie to develop a Common Securitization Platform that is a step in the direction of a merger of the two entities. Moreover, the FHFA’s mandate that Fannie and Freddie’s experiment with risk-sharing is a step in the direction of the proposal’s syndication of “all noncatastrophic credit risk.” Finally, the fact that the two companies have remained in conservatorship for so long can be taken as a sign of their ultimate nationalization.

In some ways, I read this white paper not as a proposal to spur legislative action, but rather as a prediction of where we will end up if Congress does not act and leaves the important decisions in the hands of the FHFA. And it would not be a bad result — better than what existed before the financial crisis and better than what we have now.

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March 30, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

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March 30, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

March 29, 2016

Buying Into The Sexiest Real Estate

By David Reiss

Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York - Construction at Hudson Yards

Newsmax quoted me in How to Buy and Sell in the Sexiest of Real Estate Markets. It opens,

With the opening of the 7 subway station at 34th Street last year, more than 100 shops and 5,000 residences, the Hudson Yards neighborhood in Manhattan is creating new demand for housing.

“We’ll likely witness a progression of rising prices as the entire development grows both residentially and commercially,” said Brad Malow, licensed real estate broker with Charles Rutenberg, a real estate firm in Manhattan.

Stretching from West 30th to 34th Streets and 10th to 12th Avenues, Hudson Yards is just one example of how supply of inventory impacts pricing in the world of real estate.

“The problem right now in the sales market is that supply is not catching up fast enough to pent up demand,” Malow told Newsmax Finance. “If supply increases and demand stays the same, what usually results is lower pricing.”

The New York housing market is very different from most others in the U.S. The vacancy rate in New York has hovered at 2% on average, according to a Douglas Elliman/Miller Samuel data and new development inventory is up 101% with supply and demand fluctuating from season to season.

That makes proper pricing important to the marketing of all types of property given the extraordinarily low vacancy rate.

“The supply of new housing is very low given the size of the market and the rental market is heavily regulated, depressing the rents for many units,” said David Reiss, professor of law with the Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn.

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March 29, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments