The Federal Housing Finance Board is mulling ways to refocus the 12 Home Loan banks on their mission of providing funding to mortgage lenders.

As a first step, the agency last week decided its Office of Finance may issue debt through only March 31. The finance office, the arm of the agency that raises money to fund system advances, historically has been authorized to issue debt for a full year.

After the Finance Board in 1996 removed annual limits on the amount of debt the system could issue, the level of nonhousing-related short-term money market investments soared, board Chairman Bruce A. Morrison said.

Lawmakers have criticized these investments, arguing that the Home Loan Bank System is moving away from its congressionally mandated mission.

Though Mr. Morrison did not suggest any specific solutions to this problem, he directed staff to come up with a set of recommendations before March 31.

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