September 4, 2014
The former Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Edward Demarco, has issued a short policy brief from his new perch at the Milken Institute’s Center for Financial Markets.While there is nothing that is really new in this policy brief, Twelve Things You Need to Know About the Housing Market, it does set forth a lot of commonsensical views about the housing markets. I do take issue, however, with his optimism about the structural improvements in the housing finance sector. He writes,
The crisis showed that numerous structural improvements were needed in housing—and such improvements have been under way for several years. Poor data, misuse of specialty mortgage products, lagging technologies, weak servicing standards, and an inadequate securitization infrastructure became evident during the financial crisis. A multi-year effort to fix and rebuild this infrastructure has been quietly under way, with notable improvements already in place.The mortgage industry has been working since 2010 to overhaul mortgage data standards and the supporting technology. New data standards have emerged and are in use, with more on the way. These standards should improve risk management while lowering origination costs and barriers to entry.
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Structural improvements will take several more years. A new securitization infrastructure has been in development for more than two years. This ongoing work should be a cornerstone for the future secondary mortgage market. Other structural improvements will include updated quality assurance (rep and warrant) systems for the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie and Freddie, revamped private mortgage insurance eligibility standards, and completion and implementation of remaining Dodd-Frank rulemakings. (2)
DeMarco himself had led the charge to develop a common securitization platform while at the FHFA, so I take care in critiquing his views about structural change. Nonetheless, I am worried that he is striking too optimistic of a note about the state of Fannie and Freddie. They have been in a state of limbo for far too long (which DeMarco acknowledges). All sorts of operational risks may be cropping up in the entities as employees sit around (or walk out the door) waiting for Congress to act. I think commentators should be striking a far more ominous tone about our housing finance system — something this big should not be treated as an afterthought by our elected officials.| Permalink