While Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac wait for Congress to decide when and how to act on housing industry legislation, the government-sponsored enterprises are working with their regulator on "nonlegislative GSE reform" that will better prepare them to implement new laws.
"Nonlegislative GSE reform has been going on for several years, and continues going on today," said Freddie Mac CEO Donald Layton.
The goal of these efforts is to position Fannie and Freddie to respond to an inevitable change to the role of the secondary market giants, whatever that entails.
Such efforts are guided by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and Layton said the annual GSE scorecards the regulator publishes are "the blueprint and manifesto of nonlegislative GSE reform."
Other GSE efforts include a renewed focus on customer service and support for small lenders, the CEOs of both Fannie and Freddie said during a joint presentation Monday at the Mortgage Bankers Association's Annual Convention, ongoing this week in Las Vegas.
The GSEs are leveraging technologies developed through recent loan and data quality initiatives to "facilitate the building of more systems and tools that will allow us to deliver risk management capabilities to the lenders," said Fannie Mae CEO Timothy Mayopoulos.
For example, Fannie Mae announced a new appraisal review tool for lenders to check data points before the appraisal is submitted. And Freddie Mac has added services like targeted community lender training and other resources for rural lenders.
Layton said Freddie is "breaking with our company's traditional past," to improve its relationships with lenders and increase the amount of business it does with small lenders.
"Our vision is to compete for your business...this is a cultural revolution given the history of the company," Layton said.
The CEOs also discussed a renewed focus on improving access to credit, specifically with a 97% loan-to-value loan product, which they said can be done responsibly because of safeguards that have been added to the GSEs underwriting and loan standards.
"We're not changing our credit box we're just trying to create opportunities to make it easier for people to deliver it," said Mayopoulos.
"I know there will be commentary that we're opening up the floodgates and taking on a bunch of bad loans. We are not going to do that," he added.
The difference between the current environment and the run-up to the housing crisis is that in the past, there was "little to no documentation," Mayopoulos said. "That problem has been solved."
"We're going to offer a 97% product, but this doesn't mean we're taking on loans we shouldn't be," he added.