Obama administration expects new push for REO rentals
The Obama administration will begin working on new strategies for how to better sell previously foreclosed homes held by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration, which may include renting more REO. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development put out a request for information, seeking new ideas from market participants for selling REO. Currently, the government owns roughly half of the REO inventory in the U.S. The agencies called on private property managers to submit ideas on how to reduce the REO portfolios at the GSEs and the FHA in a cost-effective manner. They also seek new ideas on property repair, sales strategies in specific hard-hit areas and new analysis of when to sell or even rent these properties. There are 92,000 properties currently for sale from HUD, Fannie and Freddie. Inventory is different as many properties are held up and not currently on the market due to delays in the process or state and federal regulations. Fannie Mae held 135,719 REO properties at the end of the second quarter, and Freddie held an inventory of roughly 61,000 REO. The agencies said there could be new programs developed for allowing the previous owner to rent the home or to allow current renters to become owners. They are also looking for private holders of REO to partner with the government in the effort. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) recently sent a letter to the FHFA, urging the Fannie and Freddie to convert their repossessed properties into rental units and pool them for sales to investors. "FHFA, Treasury and HUD anticipate respondents may best address these objectives through REO to rental structures, but respondents are encouraged to propose strategies they believe best accomplish the objectives," the agencies said. FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco said Fannie and Freddie will continue marketing individual REO for sale, but they will also look at possibly pooling these properties in some areas to reduce credit losses and stabilize neighborhoods. "Partnerships involving enterprise properties may reduce taxpayer losses and meet the enterprises’ responsibility to bring stability and liquidity to housing markets. We seek input on these important questions," DeMarco said. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said solving glut of REO on the market is crucial to repairing housing finance overall. "Exploring new options for selling these foreclosed properties will help expand access to affordable rental housing, promote private investment in local housing markets, and support neighborhood and home price stability," Geithner said. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said millions of families, who have struggled to maintain their monthly payments, have seen the value of their home drop because of abandoned properties. "At the same time, with half of all renters spending more than a third of their income on housing and a quarter spending more than half, we have to find and promote new ways to alleviate the strain on the affordable rental market," Donovan said. "Taking steps to encourage private investment in REO properties and transition them into productive use will help stabilize neighborhoods and home values at a critical time for our economy." Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.