Sens. Corker, Warner discuss GSE reform with Zillow

Both senators believe the legislation will gain traction

Two U.S. Senators touted an existing legislative package to the real estate industry this week in hopes of getting government-sponsored enterprise reform passed by the end of this legislative session.

With Congress battling a debt ceiling debate, a gridlocked House and battles over the health care bill, it may be wishful thinking to assume GSE reform will 'get past go' this session. But Sens. Bob Corker, R-TN, and Mark R. Warner, D-VA, remain hopeful. 

The two lawmakers co-sponsored Senate Bill 1217, the Housing Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2013, which aims to standardize mortgage securitization frameworks, while strengthening taxpayer protections from future economic downturns.

The bread and butter of the Corker-Warner plan is the creation of a new government entity, the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation, which would replace government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The FMIC would provide a federal backstop for investors in certain mortgages, much like the GSEs currently do, but that backstop would only be triggered after private investors had already absorbed the first 10% of any potential losses.

Earlier this week, the two senators sat down with Zillow (Z) Chief Economist Stan Humphries to discuss the act. “We wanted to deal with the one last piece of financial regulation that just hasn’t been adequately addressed,” said Sen. Corker.

Under the system the lawmakers propose, many of the functions currently under Fannie and Freddie would be grouped together, including mortgage securitization, insurance and funding for affordable housing.

Corker deemed the current system a “duopoly,” claiming it has gotten to the point where it’s nearly unmanageable. Senator Warner said the two entities have morphed into a system that nobody imagined at the outset.

The plan composed by the two senators is one of many plans created in recent months, as the thought of keeping Fannie and Freddie as they are is becoming increasingly unacceptable. Other plans include a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-TX. Hensarling’s plan would also abolish Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, replacing them with a fully privatized mortgage finance system.

“The housing market recovery is moving forward on its own two feet, and we need to move past the temporary fixes that were put in place during the crisis and create a functional and sustainable mortgage finance system,” said Humphries. “It’s now a matter of figuring out how and when to make those changes,” he added.

Both senators believe their legislation has a strong chance of success. "I think there's a real sense that this might be that last piece of financial regulation cleaning up the mess of 5 years ago that actually had a chance," said Senator Warner. "We are pleased to see that both chairman Johnson and ranking member Crapo have said this is their top priority as well," he added.

Senator Corker called this act the "topic du jour," adding that, "I think we have a really good chance for doing something great for our country, and I hope we’ll be able to see it through."

Watch the full discussion below.

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