Reforming America's Housing Finance Market
|February 11 2011|
On February 11, 2011, the Obama Administration delivered a report to Congress that provides a path forward for reforming Americaís housing finance market. The Administrationís plan will wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and shrink the government's current footprint in housing finance on a responsible timeline.
The plan also lays out reforms to continue fixing the fundamental flaws in the mortgage market through stronger consumer protection, increased transparency for investors, improved underwriting standards, and other critical measures. Additionally, it will help provide targeted and transparent support to creditworthy but underserved families that want to own their own home, as well as affordable rental options.
Our plan champions the belief that Americans should have choices in housing that make sense for them and for their families. This means rental options near good schools and good jobs. It means access to credit for those Americans who want to own their own home, which has helped millions of middle class families build wealth and achieve the American Dream. And it means a helping hand for lower-income Americans, who are burdened by the strain of high housing costs.
But our plan also dramatically transforms the role of government in the housing market. In the past, the governmentís financial and tax policies encouraged housing purchases and real estate investment over other sectors of our economy, and ultimately left taxpayers responsible for much of the risk incurred by a poorly supervised housing finance market.
Going forward, the governmentís primary role should be limited to robust oversight and consumer protection, targeted assistance for low- and moderate-income homeowners and renters, and carefully designed support for market stability and crisis response. Our plan helps ensure that our nationís economic health will not be jeopardized again by the fundamental flaws in the housing market that existed before the financial crisis. At the same time, this plan recognizes the fragile state of our housing market and is designed to ensure that reforms are implemented at a stable and measured pace to support economic recovery over the next several years.
Under our plan, private markets Ė subject to strong oversight and standards for consumer and investor protection Ė will be the primary source of mortgage credit and bear the burden for losses. Banks and other financial institutions will be required to hold more capital to withstand future recessions or significant declines in home prices, and adhere to more conservative underwriting standards that require homeowners to hold more equity in their homes.
Securitization, alongside credit from the banking system, should continue to play a major role in housing finance subject to greater risk retention, disclosure, and other key reforms. Our plan is also designed to eliminate unfair capital, oversight, and accounting advantages and promote a level playing field for all participants in the housing market. ...
PDF format, 405KB, 32Pages.
THE CHOICE AHEAD
We must also consider how to utilize the existing systems and assets in our housing finance system, including those at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as best as possible for the benefit of the taxpayer and the American people. But design choices alone will not tell us what the best path is for the future of our mortgage system, for we are faced with difficult trade-offs.
We must decide what we take to be the right balance between providing broad access to mortgages for American families, managing the risk to taxpayers, and maintaining a stable and healthy mortgage market. As we see above, these priorities are not always well aligned, so we will have to make difficult decisions as we choose the path for long-term reform.
There will of course be significant debate about how to strike this difficult balance. But we must be careful not to let that debate keep us from the immediate task at hand: we need to scale back the role of government in the mortgage market, and promote the return of private capital to a healthier, more robust mortgage market.
We will continue to seek input and consult with a wide variety of constituents, market participants, academic experts, and consumer and community organizations on our plan for reform. Given the importance of the long-term stability of the housing market and the critical role the government continues to play in the current financial circumstances, this approach to housing finance reform, built upon significant input from various stakeholders, should form the basis for a strong bi-partisan solution that results in a stronger housing finance market for all Americans.
The housing finance system must be reformed. It is the vital link to sustainable homeownership and rental options for millions of Americans, and it is central to our nationís economy. We allowed its flaws to go unchecked for too long, contributing to a financial collapse that has strained families, decimated communities, and pushed the economy into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The Obama Administration here provides a path of reform, which will lead to a future system with more private capital, better-aligned incentives, more oversight, and less risk to the taxpayer Ė in short, to a healthier, more stable system of housing finance.
|Last Updated ( February 11 2011 )|
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