The Urban Institute has posted its November Housing Finance At A Glance. This is a really valuable resource. The introduction provides a nice overview of recent developments in the area:
With a sweeping midterm election victory for the GOP, the path to legislative GSE reform got considerably narrower. Thus, the focus for reform turns to the FHFA and FHA, where we expect significant movement in the coming months. Over the past six months, the FHFA has asked for input on a variety of issues, and we have commented on them all: guarantee fees and loan level pricing adjustments, Private Mortgage Insurance Eligibility requirements (PMIERs), the single security, and affordable housing goals.
The FHFA has made a concerted effort to open the credit box, strengthening the provision by which lenders are relieved from much of their put-back risk and raising the maximum loan-to-value ratio for some GSE loans from 95 to 97. Both will help expand access without unduly increasing GSE risk. FHFA Director Mel Watt has indicated in recent speeches that work is underway to further clarify reps and warrants, with more guidance on the sunset provision, an independent resolution process for put-back disputes, and remedies short of a put-back for lesser mistakes.
As our new credit availability index indicates, these actions to open the credit box are very important. Our index shows that post-crisis loans have half the credit risk of loans made in the 2000-2003 period. The GSE channel is particularly tight, with about a third of the risk of the 2000-2003 period. This is corroborated by the data in our special feature, which shows that only 8.3 percent of recent Fannie loans (page 34) and 7.4 percent of recent Freddie loans (page 36) have FICOs under 700, compared to 35-37 percent in 1999-2004.
On the FHA side, there have also been initiatives to open the credit box, as outlined in the Blueprint for Access program. Since then, the FHA has released the initial critical draft chapters of their guidebook and a draft of the taxonomy of defects. Many hope to see lower mortgage insurance premiums to broaden access and lessen the risk of adverse selection as better credit flees to the less costly GSEs. Given that their actuary now projects that the FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund will not reach the statutory reserve requirements until 2016, however, such a move is far from certain.
Risk Sharing Developments
The GSEs continue to broaden their risk sharing activities, now turning to front-end risk sharing deals. Prior to this month, they had focused exclusively, and with much success, on laying off risk already on their books, known as back-end risk sharing. Fannie has laid off risk on 7.5 percent of their book of business and Freddie on 11.9 percent of theirs (page 21), both far exceeding the requirements of the Conservatorship Scorecard. The GSEs started including mortgages over 80 LTV in these transactions in May.
This month saw a very meaningful step in bringing private capital back into the mortgage market: the first front-end risk sharing deal, JPMorgan’s Madison Avenue Securities 2014-1 (page 21). JP Morgan warehoused loans made by JP Morgan Chase bank, then sold them in bulk into a newly issued Fannie Mae MBS, presumably for a very meaningful reduction in guarantee fees. JP Morgan retained the first 4.75 percent subordinated interest, and a 26.88 bps servicing strip that absorbs losses before the subordinated interest. The risk on the 4.75 percent subordinated interest was sold in the capital markets in the form of credit linked notes. Redwood Trust is also reported to be contemplating a front-end risk sharing transaction.
Front-end risk sharing bears important similarities to the private capital/catastrophic insurance structure contemplated by many GSE reform proposals. It is thus an administrative opportunity to experiment deliberately with a truly reduced government footprint in the conventional mortgage market. (3)
I am very excited
by the possibility of putting private capital in a first loss position for residential mortgages and agree with UI that the stars are aligning, at least a little bit, for this to become a reality. Many interests will need to be balanced for this to move forward, but politicians of all stripes should be worried about leaving Fannie and Freddie in limbo for much longer.