WASHINGTON — The criticism of a regulatory proposal to tighten Federal Home Loan Bank membership criteria is not abating.
The most recent outcry came from four housing groups that warned lawmakers last week that the proposal by the Federal Housing Finance Agency "would make harmful changes" to the FHLB membership rules.
The proposal, issued in September 2014, would require all FHLB members to meet an asset test on an ongoing basis. But many in the industry have charged that the plan would effectively force captive insurance companies to exit the FHLB system.
"In the wake of the financial crisis and uneven housing market recovery, captive insurance companies represent a new opportunity for private capital to expand homeownership opportunities for credit-worthy borrowers," the four groups — Habitat for Humanity International, Mortgage Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers of America and National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts — said in a Sept. 24 letter to Reps. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Maxine Waters, D-Calif. They are, respectively, the chairman and ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee.
The letter followed a Sept. 18 letter the American Bankers Association sent to senators, warning that the proposed ongoing asset test would create "regulatory burden and drive up costs of membership in the System and ultimately the costs of those communities and individuals served by FHLB members."
The industry's warnings about the proposal have clearly resonated with some lawmakers. A section of the regulatory relief bill authored by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Banking Committee, would require the FHFA to withdraw the proposal. Sixty-eight House members signed a letter in mid-November 2014 that urged the FHFA to abandon the plan, and 29 senators signed a similar letter in mid-December.