Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

November 5, 2013

FHA’s Net Cost of $15 Billion

By David Reiss

The Congressional Budget Office posted FHA’s Single-Family Mortgage Guarantee Program: Budgetary Cost or Savings? In response to the question, “Has FHA’s Guarantee Program for Single-Family Mortgages Produced Net Savings to Taxpayers,” the CBO responds,

No. Collectively, the single-family mortgage guarantees made by FHA between 1992 and 2012 have had a net federal budgetary cost of about $15 billion, according to the most recent estimates by FHA. In contrast, FHA’s initial estimates of the budgetary impact of those guarantees sum to savings of $45 billion . . .. That swing of $60 billion from savings to cost primarily reflects higher-than-expected defaults by borrowers and lower-than-expected recoveries when the houses of defaulted borrowers have been sold—especially for loans made over the 2004-2009 period. (1)

The document contains a chart of estimates of the budgetary impact of the FHA’s single-family mortgage guarantees by year. It shows that the 2008 vintage was particularly bad, accounting for over $15 billion in losses by itself (the other years’ savings and costs would thus net out).

There are some disturbing aspects of this finding and some that are not. First, the disturbing ones. The FHA has not been transparent about its potential for losses and bailouts (see here for instance). Second, its own financial projections have been overly optimistic.

That being said, the mere fact that the FHA is expected to have losses is not in itself an indictment of the government’s strategy of using the FHA to provide liquidity to the mortgage markets during the financial crisis. If only this were done forthrightly . . . but perhaps that is too much to ask in the midst of the crisis itself.

| Permalink