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Will the Urban Institute become ad-hoc housing adviser to a Clinton presidency?

Even so, is that a bad thing?

August 30, 2016

Recently, the Urban Institute put out a white paper commending the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the government-sponsored enterprises for “significant progress” on new housing policy efforts resulting from the recent financial crises.

Namely, the nonprofit think tank points to the credit-risk sharing transactions at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as exemplary to this cause.

“These institutions are making the housing finance system more stable and robust and are laying the groundwork for a better future system,” the abstract reads.

But, like any study subject to peer review, there is a caveat.

In this case, it’s the following:

"To improve and expand the effort, the authors recommend steps to improve price discovery and broaden participation by various sources of private capital, particularly institution-based capital. They also recommend that FHFA and the GSEs more fully consider the broader implications of their effort, not just to the housing finance system of today, but to the one policymakers will build for tomorrow, and not just to the housing finance system in isolation, but to the larger financial system in which it plays such a critical part."

Repeat: the "broader implications" of their effort. For a body such as the Urban Institute, such language clearly refers to housing finance reform in total.

It’s really not unusual. Coauthor Laurie Goodman pushed housing reform back when she was at Amherst Securities.

Indeed most of the coverage back then links to dead webpages, even at HousingWire.

Back in 2011, when HousingWire named her one of our Influential Women in Housing, Goodman remarked: “Everyone would like to be heard by more ears,” she admits, “all we can control is the quality and thoughtfulness of our ideas, the rest is up to the reader.”

Be careful what you wish for Laurie.

The most recent note, from the Urban Institute is indeed, getting “more ears.”

Investment bankers at Cowen and Company just sent a note to clients speculating if the Urban Institute is positioning for a large role, should Hillary Clinton become elected to the office of the Presidency.

“There are plenty of studies about housing finance. What makes this one interesting are the authors. They include Jim Parrott, who we see as a top housing adviser to Sec. Hillary Clinton,” writes analyst Jaret Seiberg. “It also includes Laurie Goodman and Mark Zandi, two housing experts with tremendous credibility on both sides of the political aisle.”

Seiberg’s note hits on two extremely hot button issues. First is the notable role of Jim Parrott in housing finance reform [Cue #FannieGate theorists]. The second, which I focus on goes as follows: “The paper argues that FHFA needs to begin focusing GSE credit risk sharing on institutional players rather than on capital market functions. This means deep mortgage insurance, reinsurance and lender recourse.”

Deep MI will be one of the hottest topics of 2017 if Clinton is elected. We at HousingWire are still researching the minutia of such offerings into the mortgage market space. It just appears the experts are a little ahead of us with their speculations.

The obvious solution to Seiberg is to require MI to carry more capital, a deeply unpopular notion among private investment business.

“The [UI] paper urges FHFA to begin experimenting with deep mortgage insurance, lender recourse and reinsurance in order to establish how such markets would work and what pricing would look like. Such information may be critical as Washington tries to figure out the future of the housing finance system,” Seiberg concludes.

Which leaves us with the following conjecture: Will the Urban Institute become ad-hoc housing adviser to a Clinton presidency?

If so, is that really such a bad thing?

Tell me in the message boards below.

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