REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

April 17, 2017

This Is What GSE Reform Looks Like

By David Reiss

Scene from Young Frankenstein

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Division of Conservatorship release an Update on Implementation of the Single Security and the Common Securitization Platform. As I had discussed last week, housing finance reform is proceeding apace from within the FHFA notwithstanding assertions by members of Congress that they will take the lead on this. The Update provides some background for the uninitiated:

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) 2014 Strategic Plan for the Conservatorships of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac includes the strategic goal of developing a new securitization infrastructure for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) for mortgage loans backed by 1- to 4-unit (single-family) properties. To achieve that strategic goal, the Enterprises, under FHFA’s direction and guidance, have formed a joint venture, Common Securitization Solutions (CSS). CSS’s mandate is to develop and operate a Common Securitization Platform (CSP or platform) that will support the Enterprises’ single-family mortgage securitization activities, including the issuance by both Enterprises of a common single mortgage-backed security (to be called the Uniform Mortgage-Backed Security or UMBS). These securities will finance the same types of fixed-rate mortgages that currently back Enterprise-guaranteed securities eligible for delivery into the “To-Be-Announced” (TBA) market. CSS is also mandated to develop the platform in a way that will allow for the integration of additional market participants in the future.

The development of and transition to the new UMBS constitute the Single Security Initiative. FHFA has two principal objectives in undertaking this initiative. The first objective is to establish a single, liquid market for the mortgage-backed securities issued by both Enterprises that are backed by fixed-rate loans. The second objective is to maintain the liquidity of this market over time. Achievement of these objectives would further FHFA’s statutory obligation and the Enterprises’ charter obligations to ensure the liquidity of the nation’s housing finance markets. The Single Security Initiative should also reduce the cost to Freddie Mac and taxpayers that has resulted from the historical difference in the liquidity of Fannie Mae’s Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) and Freddie Mac’s Participation Certificates (PCs). (1, footnote omitted)

This administratively-led reform of Fannie and Freddie is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly because the executive and legislative branches have not taken up reform in any serious way since the two companies entered conservatorship in 2008. While Congress could certainly step up to the plate now, it is worth understanding just how far along the FHFA is in its transformation of the two companies:

Upon the implementation of Release 2, CSS will be responsible for bond administration of approximately 900,000 securities, which are backed by almost 26 million home loans having a principal balance of over $4 trillion. CSS’S responsibilities related to security issuance, security settlement, bond administration and disclosures were described in the September 2015 Update on the Common Securitization Platform. The Enterprises and investors, along with home owners and taxpayers, will rely on the operational integrity and resiliency of the CSP to ensure the smooth functioning of the U.S. housing mortgage market. (8)

That is, upon the implementation of Release 2, the merger of Fannie and Freddie into Frannie will be complete.

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