The Obama administration released a plan on Friday for restructuring the housing finance market. The strategy lays out three options (the better to avoid Republicans immediately ripping it apart) for winding down the government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and transitioning, over at least five years, to a more privatized mortgage market.
The White House plan comes after long-held complaints about the mortgage companies' activities, which cost taxpayers $134 billion in bailouts after the 2008 financial meltdown. Congress will ultimately make the decision for how to proceed.
The three proposed scenarios are 1) end the government’s role in most mortgages; 2) a government role that guarantees mortgage investments created by private companies; 3) have the government support the mortgage market only when it’s in trouble.
The plan also provides increased consumer protections and transparency for investors, aimed at preventing borrowers from taking on loans they can’t afford and stopping financial companies from taking extreme risks. Finally, it offers support for lower income Americans with reputable credit and a desire to become homeowners, by strengthening the Federal Housing Administration.
A coalition of organizations (including the National Urban League, NAACP, National Council of La Raza and Center for Responsible Lending) quickly weighed in on the proposal from a civil rights perspective. They weren’t thrilled.
They noted that African Americans and Latinos are far more likely to receive higher-priced loans, even when their credit warrants a prime loan. Blaming these disparate practices on the secondary, private housing market, they rejected White House pitches for the market’s complete or near-complete privatization.
“The third option, offering catastrophic reinsurance, inspires more confidence than the first two, but lacks important details as to how it would serve all Americans well,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Full privatization would leave most Americans at the mercy of Wall Street, and we know from experience the devastating results that would bring.
“Fair lending rules that protect against discrimination and deceptive practices should be at the core of reshaping the housing finance market. True reform must eliminate the dual-track structure that traps qualified families in a fringe credit market, and must build a more secure and accountable secondary market, preventing future crises like the one that helped bring our economy to its knees.”