WASHINGTON -- By next month, the Federal Home Loan Bank System's membership is likely to include more commercial banks than thrifts for the first time, the system's departing regular told a Wednesday meeting of the agency's board.

Daniel F. Evans Jr., chairman of the Federal Housing Finance Board, which oversees the home loan bank system, said: "My guess is that next month, because of the large number [of bank applicants[ in the pipeline, there will be more individual commercial banks" than thrifts in the system.

There have been 812 new-member approvals so far this year -- most of which

have been commercial banks -- and 238 are in the pipeline.

The system offers low-cost funds to member financial institutions to support housing loans. In return, the members hold stock in the government-sponsored enterprise.

Bank Advances Grow Fast

At the end of October, the system had $101 billion in advances outstanding to its members, the most since May 1991, the finance board reported. While thrifts -- the system's traditional members -- accounted for the bulk of that amount, advances to commercial banks had more than doubled since the end of last year, to $15.1 billion.

Mr. Evans, who is leaving the chairmanship Monday to return full-time to his Indianapolis law practice, said he expects that advances to commercial bank members will grow faster than advances to thrifts because "the thrift market is mature and the commercial banks are new customers."

The finance board may have a rocky future because its part-time members are slated to become full-time Jan. 1 Mr. Evans resigned because he did not want to be a full-time board member.

"If I leave and two others leave, there would not be a quorum, and the agency could not make policy," Mr. Evans said. "It could, however, administer policy."

Mr. Evans said that if President Clinton has not designated a chairman by the time he leaves, he will delegate his authority to board member Henry G. Cisneros, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Cisneros' deputy. Nicolas P. Retsinas, usually attends the board's monthly meetings in his place.

Board members Lawrence U. Costiglio and Marilyn R. Seymann said they have not decided whether to continue as full-time board members come January. Their terms expire in 1995 and 1997, respectively.

Member William C. Perkins, whose term expired last February, has also not announced whether he would stay.

Affordable Housing Program

The finance board also discussed the system's affordable-housing program, which lets member institutions fund housing projects on cut-rate terms. Employees told the board a large portion of such funds support Habitat for Humanity projects.

Board members agreed that they are not worried about such concentration because Habitat's local affiliates are responsible for the projects and because the group's projects usually fit the program's objectives well.

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