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Stegman to private bond investors: You'll get your government guarantee

Investors will need to spend money to make money

January 23, 2014
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Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury for Housing Finance Policy Michael Stegman struck a much more pragmatic note in the face of the cold reality of 2014.

Speaking at the ABS Vegas conference yesterday the counselor acknowledged there are certain necessities for the return of the private mortgage market. He also acknowledged these changes will come with caveats. In other words, the private investor will need to spend money to make money.

Stegman admitted the government-sponsored enterprises still need reform. He even offered up this shocker:

"At the time they were taken into conservatorship, the GSEs’ used their portfolios like hedge funds. They took advantage of their lower government subsidized borrowing costs to invest in both their own securities as well as in higher risk, higher yielding private-label mortgage-backed securities that became the source of very large losses," Stegman said.

So now he says the Obama Administration will look to bring in credit risk investors and keep the TBA market liquid. To do so, Stegman said that, finally, private investors will get their much sought after government guarantee.

"A full faith and credit catastrophic government guarantee of qualified mortgage-backed securities standing behind substantial private capital in a first loss position is critical to maintaining market liquidity and preserving broad access to the 30-year fixed rate mortgage," he said.

It's a departure from his comments to a similar crowd last year, which really took the view from the borrower/renter perspective.

The truth is budgetary woes nullify the promises he made at the American Securitization Forum in 2013. Most housing advocacy nonprofits would likely agree they remain underfunded. What Stegman spoke of was virtually impossible to achieve:

"We bolstered state and local housing agencies with borrowing assistance so they could continue to lend. We supported neighborhood stabilization, community development and housing counseling programs," he said.

That money is going, going, gone. And Stegman's solution in 2014 is to have private investors pay for this now:

"The mortgage and investor communities should find a way to ensure that quality housing counseling is funded, and remains available for borrowers that will benefit from it," he said.

Stegman's renewed focus on Fannie and Freddie, now that FHFA head Mel Watt is in place, shows a desire by the administration to politicize the role of the GSEs to their advantage. It won't take an act of congress to broaden access to Fannie, Freddie mortgages (not regulated by CFPB).

2013, we still have money.

2014, we're out of money, but still have Fannie and Freddie to keep communities intact until private investors can do so.

"The [companies] in conservatorship have done an exceptional job of maintaining a deep and liquid secondary market in and following the recent crisis. However, we believe that continued uncertainty about their political future will continue to be a headwind impeding access to credit especially for average families with less than pristine credit. For all these reasons, comprehensive housing finance reform remains a top administration priority," he said.

A government guarantee is a huge step in that direction.

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