With Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac setting different loan ceilings for 1996, the Federal Housing Administration's 1996 ceiling is in question.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers FHA, was caught off guard by Fannie's decision to hold the limit firm. By law the FHA's ceiling is linked to Freddie's, but HUD is studying the issue, a source said.

Last Thursday, Freddie Mac announced that it would raise its 1996 loan ceiling to $207,000 to match a 1.9% increase in a home price index used to set the ceiling. Fannie Mae announced earlier that it would not raise its loan limits in 1996 from the current $203,150 level.

The Mortgage Bankers Association of America said its current estimate for the amount of additional mortgages that would be available to Freddie Mac was about $2.6 billion, not the $5 billion previously reported by the American Banker.

Should the FHA raise its loan limit in line with Freddie Mac, the FHA loan limit in high-cost areas would rise from the current $152,362 to $155,250.

Separately, the Department of Housing and Urban Development published a final rule last Friday setting affordable-housing goals for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The rule requires that 40% of the loans the agencies buy in 1996 must be to low- and moderate-income homebuyers. That number will rise to 42% in 1997, 1998, and 1999.

In addition, the agencies must meet a "geographically targeted goal," which requires that 21% of their loan purchases in 1996 be made in central cities, rural areas, and other underserved areas.

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