REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

September 30, 2022

Rethinking The Federal Home Loan Bank System

By David Reiss

photo by Tony Webster

Law360 published my column, Time To Rethink The Federal Home Loan Bank System. It opens,

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is commencing a comprehensive review of an esoteric but important part of our financial infrastructure this month. The review is called “Federal Home Loan Bank System at 100: Focusing on the Future.”

It is a bit of misnomer, as the system is only 90 years old. Congress brought it into existence in 1932 as one of the first major legislative responses to the Great Depression. But the name of the review also signals that the next 10 years should be a period of reflection regarding the proper role of the system in our broader financial infrastructure.

Just as the name of the review process is a bit misleading, so is the name of the Federal Home Loan Bank system itself. While it was originally designed to support homeownership, it has morphed into a provider of liquidity for large financial institutions.

Banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citibank NA and Wells Fargo & Co. are among its biggest beneficiaries and homeownership is only incidentally supported by their involvement with it.

As part of the comprehensive review of the system, we should give thought to at least changing the name of the system so that it cannot trade on its history as a supporter of affordable homeownership. But we should go even farther and give some thought to spinning off its functions into other parts of the federal financial infrastructure as its functions are redundant with theirs. 

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