America's Community Bankers issued a policy statement this week complaining of encroachment on lenders' turf by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The trade group raised a list of concerns about the technology, capital requirements, and new products of the two government-sponsored enterprises.

One beef involved the subprime sector. Expressing fears that Fannie and Freddie plan to enter subprime, the group argued that their charters forbid such a move unless related to programs targeted for low-income and underserved borrowers.

Such complaints have been on the rise in the past year as Fannie and Freddie initiated programs to expand their buying in a housing finance market that is reaching maturity.

A Fannie Man spokesman denied that his company is interested in subprime. "Our interest is expanding opportunities for all families by drawing more homebuyers into the conventional market," he said.

"Any special benefits that Fannie Mae has are passed on to the consumer in the form of lower mortgage costs," the spokesman added. Fannie needs its "lender partners to lower our mortgage costs to consumers."

The thrift group also charged that Fannie's and Freddie's advantages as quasi-governmental lenders would "eliminate or discourage competition from private companies in mortgage lending or servicing."

America's Community Bankers called on the secretary of Housing and Urban Development to stop programs that are inconsistent with the companies' charters.

The group also said Congress should reassess their affordable housing goals, saying they have not led the market in loans to minorities and low- and moderate-income borrowers.

In reply, the Fannie Mae spokesman asserted that "no single institution in America has done more for minority and low income lending than Fannie Mae in the 1990s."

The company wants to increase its lending to HUD projects, he said.

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