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Goldman Sachs conference answers 3 top housing questions

Wall Street firm gathers industry movers and shakers for answers

President Donald Trump is still within his first 100 days in office, and so far, the majority of Americans believe he is executing on his campaign promises.

That is the message being delivered today at Goldman Sachs’ annual housing and consumer finance housing conference in New York City. HousingWire is one of a few press guests attending the annual housing conference, now in its fifth year. With the event, the Wall Street firm looks to gathers industry movers and shakers for answers to important questions facing housing and the general economic environment.

This year, there is much to discuss.

First and foremost, despite housing and regualtory reform not being a big topic of conversation during the election, or even the previous adminstration with the former, it’s made it way to the top of the pile under the Trump administration.

Early on, panelists addressed some of the biggest questions surrounding housing finance reform under the current administration.  

For starters, Michael Thompson, managing director of government with Goldman Sachs said that 56% of people overall think President Trump is doing what he campaigned on.

But housing finance wasn’t a main focus during President Trump’s campaign platform. Panelists, in discussing the state of the housing and consumer finance market, helped resolve at least these three uncertainties surrounding the housing market.

1. When will housing reform happen?

Thompson explained the Trump administration is focused right now on locking in cabinet picks and changing the Affordable Care Act.

Once these beginning priorities, especially his cabinet picks, are further along, then the Trump administration will start to look at financial regulation.

He noted many think reform should have started by now, but these efforts keep getting pushed back, most likely into Spring or Summer at the earliest.

Cabinet nominations are taking significantly longer than in the past. To put this in perspective, Thompson stated that even with the nominations not yet closed, there are already more “no” votes on cabinet members compared to the eight years both former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama were in office.

2. Does President Trump pulling back on regulation mean the housing market will revert back to its previous bad lending habits?  

Given all the uncertainty around the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the main watchdog in charge of the mortgage finance market, there is a lot of confusion surrounding what’s in store for regulation and enforcement.

If the bureau does end up getting abolished or switching leaders and regulation lets up, there will still be watchdogs out there, Steve Kaplan, partner at Mayer Brown, explained in his panel on the regulatory landscape.

Kaplan stated, “If regulation lets up from the bureau, you’ll see others fill in the void.”

He pointed out that state attorneys general are stepping in to fill the void. Plus, he added that bank regulators are joining the state AGs.

When or how long it will take is still unknown, he said. But regardless, “You will see enforcement, but it’s a question of who is enforcing it,” said Kaplan.  

3. What is the likely short-term outcome for the CFPB?

There are currently a handful of options out there on the future of the bureau, however, not all of them can come into fruition.  

Mitch Eitel, managing partner with Sullivan & Cromwell, sat on the same panel as Kaplan. In his presentation, he highlighted that there are different legislations at stake that could change the bureau, but this will take some time.

Instead, the likely short-term outcome for the bureau is to just let Cordray come to the end of the term in July 2018 and replace him with a Trump nominee. Some inside the administration say the CFPB will not be going anywhere any time soon.

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