The Federal Housing Finance Agency released its 2016 Scorecard Progress Report. It contains some interesting information about the FHFA’s ongoing efforts to reshape Fannie and Freddie notwithstanding the inaction of Congress. These efforts are not broadcast very clearly, but they are documented nonetheless:
Maintaining a high degree of uniformity in the prepayment speeds of the Enterprises’ mortgage-backed securities is important to the success of the Single Security Initiative. Accordingly, the 2016 Scorecard called for the Enterprises to assess new or revised Enterprise programs, policies, and practices for their effect on the cash flows of mortgage-backed securities eligible for financing through TBA market.
In July 2016, FHFA published An Update on Implementation of the Single Security and the Common Securitization Platform (July 2016 Update), which included a description of specific steps FHFA would take and steps FHFA would require the Enterprises to take to ensure the continued convergence of prepayment speeds across the Enterprises’ mortgage-backed securities. The July 2016 Update indicated that each Enterprise would be required to submit for FHFA review any proposed changes the Enterprise believed could have a measureable effect on the prepayment rates and performance of TBA-eligible securities, including its analysis of any effects on prepayment speeds and/or removals of delinquent mortgage loans from securities under a range of scenarios. In addition, FHFA monitors Enterprise programs, policies, and practices that are initially determined to have no significant effect on prepayment rates or security performance and works with the Enterprises to address any unexpected effects as they arise. (25)
While this is all very technical stuff, it boils down to the effort of the FHFA to make Fannie and Freddie’s securities indistinguishable from each other so they can be treated as a Single Security. Once this process is completed, we will enter a new phase for the GSEs. The two companies wont really be competitors, they will be like identical twins.
Senators Corker and Warner are trying to resuscitate a housing finance reform bill, but this administrative reform is proceeding apace through ten years of Congressional inaction. The FHFA’s actions will likely limit the choices that Congress will have in very real ways, assuming Congress can ever get itself to act.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just good to name it for what it is: housing finance reform implemented by an independent agency, not by a democratically elected Congress.