WASHINGTON – The Federal Housing Administration's insurance fund saw its fourth consecutive annual boost in its ratio of reserves to insured mortgages, reaching 2.32% in fiscal year 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said Tuesday.
The positive report card – which puts the fund well above its 2% statutory minimum for the second year in a row – will likely accelerate industry pressure on the FHA to cut its annual premium.
"The results of the actuaries' report show the MMI fund is strong and continues to grow in value and improve in performance," HUD Secretary Julian Castro said during a conference call with reporters. "FHA remains well positioned to continue to serve the American people for years for to come."
Still, a premium cut may not be in the offing due to the election results, which will leave control of HUD in President-elect Donald Trump's hands. It's unclear how his administration will feel about FHA premiums, which traditionally Republicans have wanted to keep high to minimize the government's role in the housing market. Castro could make a cut prior to the end of President Obama's administration, but that is considered unlikely.
"I would be surprised if they did it during a transition. That is something you would leave for the next crew," said Brian Montgomery, vice chairman of the Collingwood Group.
The FHA Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund's growth is largely due to the single-forward program, which improved dramatically during the fiscal year.
On its own, the single-forward program has a ratio of 3.28%, up from 1.63% in fiscal year 2015. The value of the program increased by $18 billion and outperformed the actuaries' estimate made last year that its net worth would grow by only $10 billion.
Delinquencies on single-family loans also continued to decline while loan volume exceeded expectations with $245 billion in endorsements over the past fiscal year.
"These strong results indicate there is room to return pricing that reflect the risks in the program," Ed Golding, a principal deputy assistant to the HUD secretary who runs the FHA program, said on the conference call.
He declined to comment on the appropriateness of a premium cut.
The FHA's reverse mortgage fund did not perform as well. Separately, that program, which is generally more volatile, had a negative 6.9% capital ratio, dragging down the combined MMI fund's ratio.
Overall, the combined fund grew by $3.8 billion during the fiscal year, reaching $27.6 billion.