WASHINGTON - Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer, urged credit unions Monday to make more mortgage loans, and offered to help them do so.
The company purchased nearly $6 billion of home loans from credit unions in the past two years, and the secondary market buys one third of the mortgages credit unions make, Mr. Raines said in a speech at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions' congressional caucus.
Fannie aims to increase those figures, but can only do so if credit unions tap demand for home loans better among their nearly 80 million members, he said.
"We want to do a lot more business with federal credit unions," he said. "Being members of credit unions makes them good bets for affordable mortgages."
Fannie could help drastically increase credit unions' mortgage business, Mr. Raines said. "Right now, only 2% of credit union members get their mortgages from their credit union. There is no reason why at least half, if not the majority, of your members should not be able to buy a home through their credit union."
Mr. Raines encouraged credit unions to take advantage of Fannie's expertise in electronic commerce and technology to create quick loan approval systems. For example, he touted Navy Federal Credit Union's plans to let members receive mortgage approvals online using Fannie's desktop underwriter system.
Banking industry officials said that Mr. Raines' call for Fannie and credit unions to work more closely together does not alarm them, because banks, particularly small ones, would like to establish similar relationships.
"The most important thing is that there are tools being developed by Fannie Mae to help smaller lenders, and they're not being made exclusively for the credit unions," said Ann M. Grochala, director of bank operations for the Independent Community Bankers of America. "Community banks have access to them too."
Mr. Raines said Fannie and credit unions are allied by the strong criticism they have each received from banks, as well as their common goal of increasing homeownership.
Both have faced complaints of having an unfair competitive advantage because of their special legal statuses. Banks have been critical of credit unions' tax exemption, which they say allows credit unions to offer members lower-cost services.
Critics of Fannie, as well as Freddie Mac, say the two enterprises can offer lower interest rates because they enjoy an implicit assumption among investors that the federal government would bail them out if a severe downturn in the mortgage market caused them to fail.
Mr. Raines also blasted a bill that would consolidate oversight of government-sponsored enterprises under a new, more powerful agency. "I do not think Congress is going to pass any bill related to us," he said after his speech.
Rep. Richard H. Baker, R-La., who is scheduled to hold a meeting today on the bill, does not have majority support of members of the capital markets subcommittee, of which he is the chairman, Mr. Raines said.
Congress will not pass the Baker bill this year or next year, he added. "I do not believe Congress will ever enact this bill."
At the same conference Norman D'Amours, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, said he supports the credit union group's three legislative proposals. One would make it easier for two healthy credit unions to merge if regulators predict trouble for one of them. The second would eliminate the 1998 Credit Union Membership Access Act's restrictions on member business lending. The third would allow credit unions to serve poor, underserved groups outside their service areas.
None of the proposed changes have been introduced in Congress yet, though the credit union group's officials have been lobbying for them on Capitol Hill.
With less than a month to go before Congress adjourns, it is a "long shot to do this in this Congress," Mr. D'Amours said.