Mortgage Bankers and GSE Reform

photo by Daniel Case

The Mortgage Bankers Association has released GSE Reform Principles and Guardrails. It opens,

This paper serves as an introduction to MBA’s recommended approach to GSE reform. Its purpose is to outline what MBA views as the key components of an end state, the principles that MBA believes should be incorporated in any future system, the “guardrails” we believe are necessary in our end state, as well as emphasize the need to ensure a smooth transition to the new secondary mortgage market. (1)

While there is very little that is new in this document, it is useful, nonetheless, as a statement of the industry’s position. The MBA has promulgated the following principles for housing finance reform:

  • The 30-year, fixed-rate, pre-payable single-family mortgage and longterm financing for multifamily mortgages should be preserved.
  • A deep, liquid TBA market for conventional single-family loans must be maintained. Eligible MBS backed by a well-defined pool of single-family mortgages or multifamily mortgages should receive an explicit government guarantee, funded by appropriately priced insurance premiums, to attract global capital and preserve liquidity during times of stress. The government guarantee should attach to the eligible MBS only, not to the guarantors or their debt.
  • The availability of affordable housing, both owned and rented, is vitally important; these needs should be addressed along a continuum, incorporating both single- and multifamily approaches for homeowners and renters.
  • The end-state system should facilitate equitable, transparent and direct access to secondary market programs for lenders of all sizes and business models.
  • A robust, innovative and purely private market should be able to co-exist alongside the government-backed market.
  • Existing multifamily financing executions should be preserved, and new options should be permitted.
  • The end-state system should rely on strong, transparent regulation and private capital (including primary-market credit enhancement such as mortgage insurance [MI] and lender recourse, or other available forms of credit risk transfer) primarily assuming most of the risk.
  • While the system will primarily rely on private capital, there should be a provision for a deeper level of government support in the event of a systemic crisis.
  • There should be a “bright line” between the primary and secondary mortgage markets, applying to both allowable activities and scope of regulation.
  • Transition risks to the new end-state model should be minimized, with special attention given to avoiding any operational disruptions. (3-4)

This set of principles reflect the bipartisan consensus that had been developing around the Johnson-Crapo and Corker-Warner housing reform bills. The ten trillion dollar question, of course, is whether the Trump Administration and Congressional leaders like Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the Chair of the House Banking Committee, are going to go along with the mortgage finance industry on this or whether they will push for a system with far less government involvement than is contemplated by the MBA.

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Round-Up

  • The National Association of Realtors (NAR)’s Existing Home Sales (EHS) (completed transactions).  EHS fell  10.5% from October and 3.8% from last November.  NAR believes this precipitous decline is not due to any decrease in demand but, rather, tight inventory and the Industry’s having to adjust to new “Know Before You Owe” mortgage disclosure rules.
  • Seeking Alpha blog’s about the evolving receivership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Friday’s Government Reports

  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that it plans to expand the Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative into 18 additional Metropolitan areas -the program gives community organizations an “advanced first look” opportunity to purchase foreclosed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac properties, before they are offered to the general public. This interactive map provides more detail about the 18 Metropolitan areas targeted by the program.
  • FHFA has also released it’s Annual Housing Report for the 2014 activities of Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac – in 2014 they acquired $584 billion of loans on single-family owner-occupied housing and provided funding for 738,466 multifamily rental units in 2014.
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) releases it’s 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book, in which NYU’s Furman Center Contributes a chapter, Race, Poverty & Federal Rental Housing Policy discussing the key goals of the agency, evaluating its progress and identifying “key tensions running through its work.”  In another Chapter, Housing Finance in Retrospective authors Wachter & Acolin trace the impact of HUD on the U.S. market.

Friday’s Government Reports

  • The U.S. Census Bureau/HUD has released the New Residential Construction Statistics which show new building permits down slightly since August but 4.5% higher than Sept. 2014. Housing completions are up both month over month and year to year.
  • The New York Federal Reserve has released a paper: The Rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a related blog post: Evaluating the Rescue of  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in which the authors evaluate the now seven years and running government conservatorship which injected $187.5 billion into the two entities.  The authors conclude that the short term intervention was necessary “because of the central role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the U.S. mortgage market, and the GSEs’ interconnections with the rest of the global financial system.”  They go on to argue that the conservatorship was meant to be a temporary “time out” and characterize the lack of mortgage finance reform a “striking failure” and cite broad consensus that the GSEs should be replaced with a private system.

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Round-Up

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Round-Up

  • The Institute of Housing Studies at DePaul University has issued a report analyzing foreclosure activity which finds that foreclosures are down in the Chicago area in 2014.  The report also finds that mortgage activity remains low while investor buyers have become a major factor in the single family market.
  • Miami Coalition for the Homeless has proposed a set of solutions to make housing in Miami affordable.  The prosed policy changes grew out of a cross sector symposium dubbed the 2015 Housing Summit – organized to promoting the creation and maintenance of affordable housing in Miami-Dade County, where 71% of monthly household income goes to housing and transportation.
  • The National Association of Realtors (NAR) would like to see the Federal Housing Authority (FHA)  increase National Loan Limits.  The National Loan Limit sets the individual loan limits available under the Government Sponsored Entities (Fannie and Freddie) and FHA and VA loan programs. In a comment letter to the FHA NAR argues that since housing prices have rebounded following the financial crisis – now expected  to surpass 2007’s prices, increases are in order.