The Milkin Institute have released Bringing Housing Finance Reform over the Finish Line. It opens,
The housing finance reform debate has once again gained momentum with the goal of those involved to move forward with bipartisan legislation in 2018 that results in a safe, sound, and enduring housing finance system.
While there is no shortage of content on the topic, two different conceptual approaches to reforming the secondary mortgage market structure are motivating legislative discussions. The first is a model in which multiple guarantor firms purchase mortgages from originators and aggregators and then bundle them into mortgage-backed securities (MBS) backed by a secondary federal guarantee that pays out only after private capital arranged by each guarantor takes considerable losses (the multiple-guarantor model). This approach incorporates several elements from the 2014 Johnson-Crapo Bill and a subsequent plan developed by the Mortgage Bankers Association. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs)—would continue as guarantors, but would face new competition and would no longer enjoy a government guarantee of their corporate debt or other government privileges and protections.
The second housing finance reform plan is based on a multiple-issuer, insurance-based model originally proposed by Ed DeMarco and Michael Bright at the Milken Institute, and builds on the existing Ginnie Mae system (the DeMarco/Bright model). In this model, Ginnie Mae would provide a full faith and credit wrap on MBS issued by approved issuers and backed by loan pools that are credit-enhanced either by (i) a government program such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or (ii) Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)- approved private credit enhancers that arrange for the required amounts of private capital to take on housing credit risk ahead of the government guarantee. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be passed through receivership and reconstituted as credit enhancement entities mutually owned by their seller/servicers.
While the multiple guarantor and DeMarco/Bright models differ in many ways, they share important common features; both address key elements of housing finance reform that any effective legislation must embrace. In the remainder of this paper, we first identify these key reform elements. We then assess some common features of the two models that satisfy or advance these elements. The final section delves more deeply into the operational challenges of translating into legislative language specific reform elements that are shared by or unique to one of the two models. Getting housing finance reform right requires staying true to high-level critical reform elements while ensuring that technical legislative requirements make economic and operational sense. (2-3, footnotes omitted)
The report does a good job of outlining areas of broad (not universal, just broad) agreement on housing finance reform, including
- The private sector must be the primary source of mortgage credit and bear the primary burden for credit losses.
- There must be an explicit federal backstop after private capital.
- Credit must remain available in times of market stress.
- Private firms benefiting from access to a government backstop must be subject to strong oversight. (4-5)
We are still far from having a legislative fix to the housing finance system, but it is helpful to have reports like this to focus us on where there is broad agreement so that legislators can tackle the areas where the differences remain.