Obama want to reform Fannie and Freddie. There are a few options on the table, but Little Red Riding Hood does not think the porridge in any of the bowls is quite right.
Please consider White House wants less government in mortgage system
The Obama administration wants to shrink the government’s role in the mortgage system — a proposal that would remake decades of federal policy aimed at getting Americans to buy homes and would probably make home loans more expensive across the board.
The Treasury Department rolled out a plan Friday to slowly dissolve Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored programs that bought up mortgages to encourage more lending and required bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis.
The first option proposed by the administration would give the government no role beyond helping poorer and middle-class borrowers through agencies like the Federal Housing Administration, which provides insurance on mortgage loans.
The second and third options would give the government a role as an insurer of mortgages, and each would prompt mortgage companies to pass along fees to borrowers.
Under one, the government would step in to guarantee private mortgages during a severe economic downturn, such as another housing slump, but would provide limited support during normal times.
The third option would be more complex. The government would insure a targeted range of mortgage investments that already are guaranteed by private insurers — serving as a “reinsurance” broker to those financing companies. In the event the private insurers couldn’t pay the owners of the mortgage investments, the government insurance would pay.
The third option would leave the government with the largest role and probably have the smallest impact on mortgage rates. While lenders would have to pay fees, which would ordinarily drive rates higher, the government guarantees would also make mortgages a safer investment. That would attract more private money and hold rates down.
The correct option is to get rid of Fannie, Freddie, the FHA and HUD. The government should not provide any backstop or any guarantees at any time. Unfortunately that option was not on the table.
Some are concerned that private lending may dry up. If it did, so what? The government has no business promoting housing or taking on risks best suited for private markets.
Here’s the deal: If lenders knew there was no government guarantees, they would not make as many stupid loans. If they don’t make stupid loans, there is far less risk that lending freezes up in the first place.
Moreover, if somehow the lenders do go broke as a consequence of making poor loans, bondholders and shareholders will pay the price, not taxpayers. Pray tell, what is wrong with that?
Cheering the Demise of 30-Year Mortgages
In a free market, we may very well not see many 30-year loans issued. Why would any lending institute want to lend for 30 years at an interest rate of 5% anyway?
We might even see new products like 8-year, 10-year, or 12-year loans. Such loans would help ensure equity paybacks quickly, reducing risk for everyone on both sides of the transaction. If that forces people to buy a smaller house, so be it.
A home should be an affordable place to live, not a debt-trap or method of leveraged financial speculation for 30 years.
Borrowing short and lending long for 30-years (while attempting to hedge in between) is a recipe for disaster. Fannie and Freddie have already gotten into serious trouble over it. If that practice stops, we will all be the better for it. Thus, we should all cheer the demise of 30-year loans.
If we would just get government totally out of the way, housing will recover a lot quicker, with home prices far more stable, than with government guarantees or half-assed measures. It’s time we remove the government crutch completely. For more on this line of thinking, please see Mortgage Rates Hit 1-Year High; NAR Whines for Government (Taxpayer) Support of Fannie, Freddie; “*” the NAR
We have tried everything else, and everything else failed, so why not try the free market for a change.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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