Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac 'need to get realistic regarding their affordable housing programs,' the head of a California thrift argued last week. Mario J. Antoci, president and chief executive officer of American Savings Bank. Irvine, Calif., said the two government-sponsored companies "are cherry-picking loans' in a way that doesn't do poorer communities any good. Antoci's views were seconded by other panelists at a seminar on real estate finance at the annual convention of the Savings and Community Bankers of America.

Antoci said that if one applied Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae guidelines for accepting home loans to Hispanics in Los Angeles, only a few would qualify for purchase by the government-sponsored enterprises. "The underwriting standards don't take into account the nature of the people there," he said. For example, he said some Hispanic households might have five or six income sources rather than Just one or two.

John P. Gibbons, vice president for financial research at Freddie Mac, said his agency has to work harder to determine who does good lending in affordable housing and try to find different ways to buy the loans.

"We're aware of the difficulties of the current situation," he said. "It's difficult to know who the good lenders are. but there's reason to believe it's community banks."

Larry H. Dale. senior vice president and executive director of Fannie Mae's National Housing Impact Division, noted that his agency has tried to help affordable housing initiatives by investing in loans for multifamily units. This year, Fannie expects to buy $3.5 billion to $4 billion worth of those mortgages, he said.

Affordable housing was a major theme of SCBA's meeting. The trade group unveiled a working paper expected to be completed next month that outlines what thrifts do to "spearhead" the development of new mortgage products. "Yet, the industry's community ties extend far beyond the making of individual mortgages, with institutions taking on increasingly active roles within their communities," the paper said.

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