February 27, 2018

A Blueprint For Phasing Out The GSE’s

A report from the Washington Examiner. “Conservatives who are pushing for the elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Monday gave President Trump a blueprint for phasing out the government-sponsored enterprises by himself. Analysts with the American Enterprise Institute and other right-of-center think tanks began rolling out a guide for how the Trump administration could ‘eliminate’ Fannie and Freddie over the course of several years without any action from Congress. AEI also plans a conference Tuesday morning to discuss the paper, which could influence GOP lawmakers.”

“The plan is tailored for enactment by a Trump appointee to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government entity responsible for overseeing Fannie and Freddie.”

“The agency is currently headed by Mel Watt, an Obama appointee whose term extends to the end of the year. But a Trump replacement, the conservative authors argue in a 113-page paper, could wind down Fannie and Freddie by gradually lowering the size limits for the loans that the two entities are allowed to purchase and repackage into mortgage-backed securities, while at the same time preventing them from buying certain kinds of loans.”

“‘We believe that the election of Donald Trump has made it possible to break this logjam,’ they wrote, referring to the government-sponsored enterprises’ nearly decadelong stay in government custody.”

“Some of the new paper’s conservative authors, including AEI’s Peter Wallison and Ed Pinto, have argued for years that the government-sponsored enterprises and affordable housing mandates helped cause the financial crisis by inflating the housing bubble and helping cause the proliferation of risky mortgages.”

“The paper released Tuesday will lay out the case that government guarantees for mortgage-backed securities and affordable housing mandates haven’t helped first-time homebuyers afford housing in the past, based on homeownership rates. It will also note that just a tiny slice of Fannie and Freddie’s activities — about 1 in 10 of its loan dollars — benefit first-time homebuyers buying inexpensive houses.”

“Instead, the conservatives argue that paring back government subsidies for mortgage credit put downward pressure on house prices, bringing homeownership within the price range of more buyers. They’re betting that the private market will step up to meet demand for mortgage-backed securities as Fannie and Freddie back out.”

“To that end, they wrote, Trump’s appointee for FHFA director should reduce the limits on home loans eligible for GSE backing in high-cost areas on his or her first day in office, which could be as early as Jan. 1, 2019. For 2018, that limit is set at $679,650. The next year, the director should stop purchasing investor loans and loans for vacation homes. In 2021, he or she should cease doing cash-out refinances. The next step, in future years, would be to lower the regular limit on home loans. For 2018, the limit is $453,100.”

“The authors recommended lowering Federal Housing Administration limits at the same time, to avoid having the FHA pick up business dropped by Fannie and Freddie. Trump administration officials have expressed support for a bipartisan legislative effort to overhaul the housing finance system. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also said that the administration would have options for overhauling Fannie and Freddie.”

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