Government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be restructured as government-chartered, non-shareholder owned authorities, the National Association of Realtors® said in congressional testimony today.
"We want to ensure a flow of capital into the mortgage market regardless of the state of the market or economy," Vince Malta, NAR vice president and liaison to government affairs, testified to the House Financial Services Committee. "The new Fannie and Freddie must ensure there is always mortgage capital available for creditworthy buyers and that taxpayer dollars are protected."
In outlining NAR's proposal, Malta cautioned Congress and the administration about moving too quickly in restructuring the GSEs. "The housing recovery is still too fragile for the government to completely step away, and any disruption in the marketplace now by doing something too radical would be harmful," he said. "Our goal is to help Congress and our industry design a secondary mortgage model that will serve America's best interest today, and in the future."
Neither a fully privatized entity nor a fully nationalized structure for the secondary mortgage market giants effectively addresses the critical issues of loan availability and taxpayer protection, he said. A fully private entity would foster mortgage products more aligned with business goals rather than the nation's housing policy for consumers. "In difficult markets, like today's, private lenders have not been willing to make loans without government backing," said Malta.
A fully federal structure would put taxpayers at risk. "We want to eliminate any scenario that would place taxpayers on the hook to protect these entities. And to combine the two, or merge them with Ginnie Mae, would remove competition in the secondary market, and the new entity could lose focus on it missions to serve low- and moderate-income families and maintain liquidity in the mortgage markets," he said.
The new authorities should be subject to tighter regulations on products, profitability and minimal, retained portfolio practices in a way to ensure protection of taxpayer monies. The new entities would also concentrate on standard mortgage products that are the foundation of the housing finance market.
"While that might curtail some private participation and alternative products in this market, we believe privates will offer innovations that meet consumer needs. The new entities would focus on safe mortgage products, including 15- and 30-year fixed rate mortgages and traditional adjustable rate mortgages."
Malta also submitted a list of further recommendations.
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.