House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) on Sept. 6 unveiled a sweeping proposal to overhaul the housing finance system in the United States during a hearing entitled, "A Failure to Act: How a Decade without GSE Reform Has Once Again Put Taxpayers at Risk."
- This fall marks ten years since the height of the financial crisis, when the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into government conservatorship on September 6, 2008. According to a committee summary of yesterday's hearing, "The subsequent financial bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has required over $190 billion in taxpayers contributions to date, and taxpayers remain explicitly obliged to provide over $254 billion should future losses materialize. Never intended as a permanent solution, the conservatorship continues ten years later."
- The discussion draft of the "Bipartisan Housing Finance Reform Act of 2018" proposes to "repeal the GSEs' charters, permanently ending their monopoly, and transition to a system that allows qualified mortgages backed by an approved private credit enhancer with regulated, diversified capital resources to access the explicit, full government securitization guarantee provided by Ginnie Mae," according to Chairman Hensarling's opening committee statement. The bill is co-sponsored by Jim Hines (D-CT) and John Delaney (D-MD).
- In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Hensarling further explained the proposal – "Loan originators would have to acquire coverage from an approved 'credit enhancer,' or private mortgage credit guarantor, to use the Ginnie Mae system. That would function as a private capital buffer on the loan, which could then be securitized by any of Ginnie Mae's more than 400 approved issuers with an explicit, full government guarantee of mortgage-backed securities." (Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Sept. 6)
- The day before the hearing, a coalition of the housing industry's largest trade groups and affordable housing advocates wrote to the Trump Administration and Congress to enact permanent reforms to the government-sponsored enterprises. ( Coalition letter and HousingWire, Sept 5)
- A private sector solution to GSE reform was offered in a Sept. 4 Op-Ed in The Hill by Roundtable member Willy Walker, Chairman and CEO of Walker & Dunlop, one of the largest commercial real estate finance companies in the United States.
- In his Op-Ed, Mr. Walker writes, "The GSEs' multifamily lending businesses, where they back loans to owners of apartment buildings across the country, is the model that should be applied to all lending done by the GSEs. It's the same role they play in financing single-family homes, but with a fundamental difference: In the multifamily business, private capital is required to take risk on every loan the GSEs guarantee, protecting the GSEs and taxpayers in the process." (A fix for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac already exists, Sept. 4)
- The proposed legislation has slim chances of advancing during an election year, yet Reps. Hensarling and Delaney said it could serve as a road map that lawmakers in the next Congress could use to push for GSE reform. Hensarling is not running for re-election. (Bloomberg, Sept 6)
Hensarling concluded his committee statement, "If the political will to enact such reform stalls in this Congress or the next, the Administration can and should effectuate change. The President will appoint a new Federal Housing Finance Agency Director in January. With apologies to The Rolling Stones, 'you can't always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just might find, you get what you need' to avert the next housing crisis." (Hensarling statement on YouTube)