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Mortgage

Trump officially calls for end to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac conservatorship

White House issues release calling for "overdue reform of the housing finance system"

President Donald Trump is officially calling for an end to the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to a White House release issued Wednesday.

Trump is expected to sign a memorandum later today issuing “overdue reform of the housing finance system,” the White House said, which includes the end of conservatorship and the improvement of the regulatory oversight of both entities.

The statement said that Fannie and Freddie have grown in size and reach, yet face no competition from the private sector, and that the Department of Housing and Urban Development programs are exposed to too much risk while relying on outdated processes.

In the announcement, Trump called for reform that “promote[s] competition in the housing finance market and create[s] a system that encourages sustainable homeownership and protects taxpayers against bailouts.”

HUD and the Treasury Department will be tasked with drafting proposals for reform, with the Treasury detailing Fannie and Freddie plans while HUD lays out a plan for the housing finance agencies it oversees.

Specifically, Trump's order will direct the "relevant agencies to develop a reform plan for the housing finance system." According to the announcement, the reforms will "aim to end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and improve regulatory oversight over them."

The White House also stressed that the administration will work with Congress to create a comprehensive plan for housing finance reform.

Just after publishing the announcement, the White House published the full memorandum that Trump will sign Wednesday. Click here to read the memo in full.

This is the latest and possibly most concrete example of the Trump administration’s desire to end the conservatorship of the GSEs.

In January, reports emerged that Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, who was picked by Trump to serve as acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency while Mark Calabria is awaiting confirmation to replace Watt on a permanent basis, announced that a plan for GSE form was coming “in weeks.”

Calabria previously served as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief economist, worked at the Cato Institute, and has long been an advocate for housing finance reform. As Pence’s economist, Calabria famously called for the end of the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

And last year, the Trump administration called for ending the conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie as part of a plan that would overhaul the federal government.

In a section of the 132-page document entitled “Reform Federal Role in Mortgage Finance,” the Trump administration proposes ending the conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie and privatizing the GSEs.

According to the administration last year, the GSEs play an outsized role in the country’s mortgage finance system and stand in the way of competition in the market.

“This proposal would transform the way the Federal Government delivers support for the U.S. housing finance system to ensure more transparency and accountability to taxpayers, and to minimize the risk of taxpayer-funded bailouts, while maintaining responsible and sustainable support for homeowners,” the proposal stated in a summary section.

“Proposed changes, which would require broader policy and legislative reforms beyond restructuring Federal agencies and programs, include ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reducing their role in the housing market, and providing an explicit, limited Federal backstop that is on-budget and apart from the Federal support for low- and moderate-income homebuyers,” the proposal continued.

Under the plan announced last year, Fannie, Freddie, and “other competitive entrants” would have access to an “explicit Federal guarantee” for mortgage-backed securities they issue, which is only “exposed in limited, exigent circumstances.”

And last year, Craig Phillips, Department of the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s top housing advisor, told the crowd at the Mortgage Bankers Association 2018 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., that the Trump administration is working to end the conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie.

“The administration advocates ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and returning them to private ownership,” Phillips said last year. “Their charters should be removed from statute and their operations should be overseen by the primary regulator that has the authority to approve additional guarantors to introduce competition into the secondary mortgage market.”

Regardless, the probability of the GSEs exiting conservatorship just became more much real.

Again, to read the White House's memo in full, click here.

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