Here are the chilling statistics on Fannie and Freddie, the housing market, and what the U.S. government is on the hook for.
From Bloomberg News:
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage-finance companies seized by regulators, may need more than the $200 billion in funding pledged by the U.S. government if the housing market continues to deteriorate, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James Lockhart said.
The companies’ needs will depend largely on the direction of home prices, Lockhart said in an interview in
“When we sized the amount in September, we obviously looked at stress tests and what was happening in the marketplace,” Lockhart said. “There’s been some significant events since then that weren’t in our forecast.”
The U.S. housing market lost $3.3 trillion in value last year and almost one in six owners with mortgages owed more than their homes were worth, according to a Feb. 3 report from Zillow.com. Following a record boom, home prices are down 25 percent on average since mid-2006 amid a tightening of lending standards and an economic recession, the S&P/Case-Shiller Composite 20-city price index shows.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are the largest
A ‘Hard Look’
Fannie Mae said in a November regulatory filing that “this commitment may not be sufficient to keep us in solvent condition or from being placed into receivership.” Freddie Mac is taking a “hard look” at whether it will need more than $100 billion, Koskinen said last week.
“It’s going to be a close question,” Koskinen said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff.”
McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac has taken $13.8 billion in federal aid and said it will need as much as $35 billion more by the end of this month. Washington-based Fannie Mae said it may tap as much as $16 billion in funding.
Lockhart, who was in
“There were some temporary imbalances that made their numbers pretty dramatic,” he said.
Federal officials are now leaning on the government- sponsored enterprises to help stabilize the housing market. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said last week that the companies will be used “very aggressively” to help reduce record foreclosures.
Lockhart said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t expected to take a loss “under any program” that requires their involvement. “We would expect them to be writing business that’s profitable at this point, not a large profit,” he said yesterday. “But we would not expect them to be writing business at a loss under any program.”
The Treasury, not the companies, would bear the cost under proposals to use the companies to drive down mortgage rates to about 4.5 percent, Lockhart said. That proposal was under consideration as part of a comprehensive housing-recovery plan being developed by the Treasury.
‘A Hot Idea’
“That was a hot idea for a while: It’s cooled off,” Lockhart said. “But Fannie and Freddie wouldn’t be asked to eat the difference. If it happened, that would be the U.S. Treasury.”
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may also be used to provide direct financing to single-family and multifamily residential mortgage lenders, Lockhart said. Currently Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac provide financing by either buying loans from lenders or helping them package the debt as bonds for sale to investors, thus freeing up cash to make more mortgages.
The FHFA is reviewing whether the companies’ congressional charters, which generally prohibit lending directly to the public, would restrict expanding into so-called warehouse financing.
Mortgage bankers and other companies that have seen their sources of credit dry up in the past year have been pushing for the change, according to Lockhart.
“The problem is that unfortunately bankers have tightened their credit standards and withdrawn from some markets,” Lockhart said. “And as interest rates fall, if we have relatively large refinancings, we’re going to need to have mortgage bankers be able to provide mortgages in the interim before they sell them to Fannie and Freddie.”