WASHINGTON — As Congress and the White House struggle to determine the appropriate role for government in the mortgage market, affordable housing is likely to prove a large hurdle on the path to housing finance reform.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which policymakers are trying to unwind, have operated with explicit affordable housing goals for more than 20 years. A big question in revamping the system is what replaces those goals and how much support the government should provide to housing assistance for low- and moderate-income borrowers.

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