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Politics & Money

Mortgage industry cheers Sandra Thompson’s nomination

The veteran regulator has been serving as acting FHFA director since June

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FHFA Acting Director Sandra Thompson

Industry stakeholders and affordable housing advocates welcomed news that the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s acting director, Sandra Thompson, was nominated for the permanent role.

President Joe Biden nominated Thompson for FHFA director on Tuesday. It’s arguably the most important role in housing finance, perched atop the agency that oversees $7.2 trillion in mortgages.

But that doesn’t mean Thompson’s confirmation will come up for a vote anytime soon.

Unlike Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra, Thompson won’t have to wait for a Senate vote to take decisive actions. She is already acting director and has been busy furthering the Biden administration agenda of racial equality. So while she is a much less-controversial figure than Chopra, Congress may not see much reason to prioritize her confirmation.

Some other important nominations have been held up for months, like Julia Gordon, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust, who was nominated to be Federal Housing Administration commissioner in June.

For the time being, Thompson has to weigh how her actions might come across to lawmakers.

Could that put a damper on her push for affordability and expanding access to credit, at least until her nomination goes through? Not likely, according to Bob Broeksmit, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“I don’t think her actions will be colored by trying to curry favor with certain members of the Senate,” said Broeksmit. He predicted her confirmation will draw bipartisan support.

That’s because while she has been outspoken about tackling the racial homeownership gap, and taken a number of actions to give force to those statements, she hasn’t sacrificed safety and soundness to do so.

“She is a steadfast regulator,” said Broeksmit. “I never went along with the narrative from some quarters that she would be about loosening the credit box.”

The Housing Policy Council, which represents large lenders and servicers, also applauded the nomination.

“Her extensive regulatory experience, which includes almost ten years in an executive role at FHFA and as the head of supervision at the FDIC, demonstrates that she has the background needed for this critical supervisory role,” a spokesperson for the trade association said. “Acting Director Thompson recognizes the critical importance of safety and soundness regulation to the health and resilience of the U.S. housing finance system and the national economy.”

The Community Home Lenders Association, which represents small and mid-sized independent mortgage banks, said it “strongly and unequivocally” supported her nomination.

“In her short tenure as Acting FHFA Director, Thompson has more than proved her capability to be the right person for the job – moving decisively to suspend the counterproductive PSPA restrictions and taking a number of actions to promote the GSEs’ access to credit for underserved and minority borrowers,” a CHLA spokesperson said.

Thompson has also won over affordable housing advocates, who have been impressed by her commitment to an equitable housing finance system.

David Dworkin, president of the National Housing Conference, said her nomination was the “right choice for one of the most important jobs in housing.”

“Should she be confirmed to a five-year term at FHFA’s helm, she will have a unique opportunity to leverage her decades of experience to ensure Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Bank System meet the needs of all American families, including those who have not traditionally been served ​by our housing finance system,” Dworkin said.

Some had previously expressed frustration that there was not a permanent nominee for the FHFA, although there is recent precedent for an acting FHFA director serving over several years. Jesse Van Tol, President of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, told Politico in July that Thompson was a “safe, caretaker choice.”

But now that Thompson is up for a five-year term, Van Tol, too, praised the decision. She’s already taken important steps, he said, including creating a new affordability goal focused exclusively on communities of color.

“In her short time at FHFA, she has led the agency towards a more ambitious vision for a more equitable housing finance system that enables more Americans to buy homes and accumulate personal wealth,” Van Tol said.

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