Despite improvements in the job market and low mortgage rates, Federal Reserve officials seem disappointed that their efforts to perk up housing are having little impact, according to minutes of the central bank's December monetary policy committee meeting.
Committee members "generally saw few signs of recovery in the housing market, with house prices continuing to decline in most areas and the overhang of foreclosed and distressed properties still substantial," the minutes reveal.
The Fed released the transcript of its Dec. 13 Federal Open Market Committee Tuesday afternoon.
Several Federal Reserve Board governors openly supported the Obama Administration's initiative to restructure the Home Affordable Refinancing Program which allows more underwater borrowers to refinance their Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans.
However, Fed staffers told FOMC members that market reaction to the expansion of the HARP program has been "limited" so far. (The first phase of the HARP 2.0 program began December 1.)
Staffers also told FOMC members that low rates the Fed is perpetuating via the purchase of agency MBS are not having much of an impact either. Low mortgage rates appear to "have only modest effects on the rate of refinancing, likely because of tight underwriting standards and low levels of equity," the minutes say.
Despite these reports, FOMC members have agreed to continue the MBS purchase program.
From November 14 through December 13, the New York Federal Reserve Bank purchased $28 billion in Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie Mae MBS. The New York bank is slated to purchase another $30 billion of agency MBS by January 12.