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Monday Morning Cup of Coffee: Obama's pick to lead HUD a surprise?

The Simpsons takes a potshot at mortgages

May 18, 2014
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Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news crossing HousingWire's weekend desk, with more coverage to come on bigger issues.

President Obama is preparing to nominate Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio as his new secretary of housing and urban development, according to the New York Times.

Current head, Shaun Donovan, is to become director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Here's the reason for picking Castro, according to the article:

"Some of Mr. Castro’s allies also believe that with income inequality becoming a focal point for Democrats, the HUD job offers the mayor an opportunity to burnish his credentials on issues of poverty and to raise his appeal among those on the party’s left. The post will also let him develop relationships with and win favors from city leaders and activists in a way he cannot on the Democratic lecture circuit."

The post may come as a surprise to some, but to close readers of HousingWire, this falls well within the other, stated positions on government-housing employees.

The director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Mel Watt, in his first public speech said the agency is looking for more minorities and women in its workforce.

Watt told the directors of the FHLBs to place a higher priority on including more minorities and women in their work.  He reminded the directors, as per the order of Congress, that each FHLBank have a designated Office of Minority and Women Inclusion that is clearly identified in its organization chart and the OMWI Director must report to the CEO or COO equivalent.

"You can anticipate that FHFA’s focus on OMWI activities and effectiveness, both internally at FHFA and at our regulated entities, will increase," he said. "In that regard, I will soon be naming a permanent OMWI Director at FHFA who will be working with each FHLBank to ensure full compliance with both the letter and spirit of the law."

A blog on the ongoing reform efforts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is arguing that lending standards should not be loosened in any event.

Otherwise, of course, it could all come crashing back down again.

The piece in The Guardian, penned by Suzanne McGee, states that sins of the past are reason alone to exercise greater caution when righting the mortgage finance market.

"On the one hand: the Senate Banking Committee finally, narrowly okayed a bill that (if passed as written) would simply replace both Fannie and Freddie with a new entity. It's a complete restructuring of the mortgage finance infrastructure," McGee writes. "The goal is to get private entities – instead of the government – to take a greater portion of any losses in any future real estate market meltdown."

"In theory, that means that future crises won't destroy the quasi-governmental mortgage agencies like the most recent one did."

The piece serves as a here's-how-housing-works narrative with two problems at its core.

First, the role of private players in the mortgage market, which far outstripped Fannie and Freddie share, is completely disregarded when speaking of the housing boom.

The second, more technical argument, is the timeline of Fannie And Freddie conservatorship gets warped in the telling:

"As long as Fannie and Freddie, with the implied government backing, were present as buyers, it was assumed that nothing could go too terribly wrong.

We saw how that turned out."

Fannie and Freddie, of course, were not in conservatorship before the housing bust, but the above passage wrongfully suggests otherwise.

In today's lending environment, looser credit standards would be welcomed by the industry and buyers alike, but McGee is correct to state that prudence may not be cast aside.

Is housing coming back?

We’ll get a hint this week, according to this piece in CNBC.

"Concerns about the housing market have clouded many investors' optimism about the economic recovery," writes Alex Rosenberg. "But after a strong housing starts number on Friday, two key releases in this week could put real estate in a brighter light."

(But wait, were the numbers really that strong?)

"These releases come on the back of Friday's strong housing starts numbers, which came in at 1.07 million units versus expectations of 980,000 starts," the article states. "However, the news isn't quite as good as that number implies, given that nearly all of the growth was in multifamily homes, while single-family home starts rose less than 1%."

One mortgage product didn't get a vote of confidence in last night's episode of the Simpsons.

The long-standing animated comedy about a family living in Springfield (state unknown) took a potshot at a popular financial product designed for elderly homeowners.

In a quick take, Grandpa Simpson is seen sitting with a friend in worn chairs watching a dated television, passing time at their care facility (aka: nursing home).

An unknown, professionally sounding male voice emanates from the television, obviously advertising a specific type of home loan.

The voice is heard asking the TV audience: "Have you ever heard of a reverse equity mortgage?"

To which Grandpa Simpson's friend yells at the set: "That's what put me in this dump!"

Zing. Simpsons. Zing.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation closed AztecAmerica Bank, Berwyn, IL. Well, technically the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation closed it and subsequently the FDIC was named Receiver.

All deposit accounts have been transferred to Republic Bank of Chicago.

In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, Republic Bank of Chicago agreed to purchase approximately $58.3 million of the failed bank's assets. The FDIC will retain the remaining assets for later disposition.

The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund will be $18.0 million.

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