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Is the current political environment too risky to open affordable housing discussion?

MBA Secondary panelists explain risks

At the Mortgage Bankers Association National Secondary Market Conference and Expo in New York City Tuesday, panelists took on the topic of affordable housing.

During the session, one panelist explained the risks to bringing up the discussion of affordable housing.

“In our minds, it’s still a question as to whether a legislative approach is the right approach,” said Gerron Levi, NCRC director of policy and government affairs. “Some feel as though opening the affordable housing charter in this political environment is treacherous.”

She explained that bringing up the topic now is risky, and that it stands to lose more ground than it would gain.

“We see a lot of political risk in the current environment, and given how important homeownership is, we are concerned about opening up the discussion in the current political environment,” Levi said.

She explained that, while affordable solutions are needed, there could be other ways to go about achieving change without going through the legislative process.

The panelists explained that while the Senate is approaching the issue from a bipartisan angle, the House of Representatives is more polarized.

Other panelists agreed that some issues should not be dealt with legislatively, saying in order to bring a balance to the market, it needs to be dealt with on an administrative level.

Radian Guaranty President Teresa Bazemore explained that some of the greatest competition to the private market is often the Federal Housing Finance Agency, even without intending to be.

Bazemore suggested the possibility of having someone in the government who looks over the government agencies and ensures they are serving underrepresented buyers while not crowding out the private market.

However, Levi emphasized she believes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to be able to create some competition in the market as it keeps lenders innovating and opens the credit box.

Barry Zigas, Consumer Federation of America director of housing policy disagrees. He said the secondary market does not need more competition, and that the private market can take care of that. He insisted that the primary market would stand to benefit much more from the competition the GSEs bring.

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