Senate Banking Committee and Administration Weigh In On GSE Reform Plan; FHFA Announces New Multifamily Cap Structure

Treasury's Housing Reform Proposal - Sept. 2019

The Senate Banking Committee’s September 10 hearing on “Housing Finance Reform: Next Steps” focused on the Trump Administration’s efforts to reform the U.S. housing finance system, including their proposal to overhaul the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified before the committee about the Administration’s Housing Reform Plan released last week to revamp and recapitalize the GSEs before releasing them from conservatorship.  The Administration’s goal is to reduce the federal government’s footprint in housing finance, increase the role of the private sector and private capital in the market and, eventually, return Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private shareholder ownership.   Mnuchin testified that if Congress fails to act, the Administration will pursue an agreement with the GSEs’ regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to change the terms of the government’s bailout agreements reached 11 years ago.
  • The FHFA announced today a revised cap structure on the multifamily businesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The new multifamily loan purchase caps will be $100 billion for each organization, a combined total of $200 billion in support to the multifamily market, for the five-quarter period Q4 2019 – Q4 2020.  The new caps are significantly higher than the existing ones and apply to all multifamily business – no exclusions. To ensure a strong focus on affordable housing and traditionally underserved markets, FHFA directs that at least 37.5 percent of the Enterprises’ multifamily business be mission-driven, affordable housing.
  • After Fannie and Freddie received $191 billion in government support during the financial crisis of 2008 and entered conservatorship, they have become profitable.  Under the Administration’s plan, Fannie and Freddie profits would no longer go to Treasury, but would be dedicated to building their capital bases.  (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 10)
  • Mnuchin also testified that Treasury’s plan “would preserve the longstanding government support of the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage loan.”  The Treasury plan acknowledges the disincentives posed by regulatory barriers such as rent control and calls for enhancing private involvement in multifamily lending by refocusing the GSEs on affordable and workforce housing.
  • Democratic senators clashed with Republicans during Tuesday’s hearing, emphasizing the reform outlines would raise home borrowing costs and neglect lower-income homeowners.  Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) called for a specific Administrative proposal, stating, “This whole thing is a car wreck. It’s a dumpster fire…We spent $190 billion of taxpayer money, and we’re in worse shape.”  (AP, Sept. 10)
  • The Roundtable submitted comments this week in advance of the hearing (Roundtable letter, Sept. 9).   The Roundtable and 27 industry organizations also submitted principles for reforming the GSEs in March. (Roundtable Weekly, March 1)

The path to reaching bipartisan consensus on housing finance reform remains unclear, especially before the 2020 presidential election.  Housing finance reform will be a focus of discussion with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson during The Roundtable’s Fall Meeting on October 30 in Washington.

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Senate Banking Committee and President Trump Launch Efforts to Address Housing Finance Reform, Including GSEs

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) and President Trump this week launched separate efforts aimed at reforming the multi-trillion-dollar financial market for single-family and multifamily mortgages, including the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) held hearing this week on reforming the multi-trillion-dollar  housing finance markets. 

  • Two days of hearings before the Senate Banking Committee concluded Wednesday, with twelve witnesses testifying about Chairman Crapo’s recent housing reform outline – a proposal that would return the GSEs to private control.  (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 8)
  • Crapo stated during the hearing, “This outline sets out a blueprint for a permanent, sustainable new housing finance system that: protects taxpayers by reducing the systemic, too-big-to-fail risk posed by the current duopoly of mortgage guarantors; preserves existing infrastructure in the housing finance system that works well, while significantly increasing the role of private risk-bearing capital; establishes several new layers of protection between mortgage credit risk and taxpayers; ensures a level playing field for originators of all sizes and types, while also locking in uniform, responsible underwriting standards; and promotes broad accessibility to mortgage credit, including in under-served markets.” (Senate Banking CommitteeDay One Testimony and Day Two Testimony)

    The Real Estate Roundtable and 27 industry organizations on March 1 submitted principles for reforming the (GSEs).

  • Following the hearings, President Trump released a presidential memodirecting “the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to craft administrative and legislative options for housing finance reform.”  (Wall Street Journal, March 27)
  • President Trump aims to end the GSEs’ conservatorship, “promote competition in the housing finance market … create a system that encourages sustainable homeownership and protects taxpayers against bailouts.”  The memo also calls for the preservation of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. (White House announcement, March 27)
  • The GSE’s received $191 billion in government support during the financial crisis, but since entering conservatorship, they have paid the Treasury $292 billion in dividends,  according to research from Keefe, Bruyette & Woods  (Reuters, March 27)

The Real Estate Roundtable and 27 industry organizations on March 1 submitted principles for reforming the (GSEs).  The coalition’s letter was sent to Acting Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Joseph Otting and Washington policymakers days after the Senate Banking Committee advanced the nomination of Mark Calabria as FHFA Director.  (Roundtable Weekly, March 1)

Calabria is awaiting full Senate confirmation, which is expected soon.