WASHINGTON The Mortgage Bankers Association is proposing fixes for the housing market that regulators can make now, without waiting on lawmakers to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Its plan, "Key Steps On The Road To GSE Reform," is part of the group's effort to rally support for important changes to the mortgage system, even as the House and Senate begin debating separate plans to revamp the government-sponsored enterprises. David Stevens, MBA's president and chief executive, has been sharing pieces of the plan over the past several months, but the new report spells it out in full. Stevens emphasized at a press briefing Monday that all the steps can be taken ahead of any legislative action.
"These are pragmatic moves that need to happen now," he said. "The key is getting organized momentum to go after it."
MBA's report focuses on five critical areas of the mortgage finance system that the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Treasury Department can start addressing right away, Stevens said. Those steps, which he called "guaranteed must-haves in any future system," include establishment of a uniform mortgage-backed-security product and a securitization platform that both government-sponsored enterprises would share; a requirement that the GSEs offer lenders more risk-sharing options at the point of sale; broader access to secondary markets for community lenders; and development of consistent underwriting limits.
Stevens said that he has started urging industry groups and others to help put pressure on policymakers to take action. A hurdle facing the industry is that the FHFA has lacked a permanent director since 2009, which has slowed progress on certain transition steps, he said. Edward DeMarco has served as the agency's acting director since that time; Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., has been nominated for the permanent job.
"I think Ed has been a thoughtful, conservative steward of those GSEs and he's taken some action, but he's doing it in a relatively isolated way. There's not some work effort he's involved in with multiple regulators to help to really come up with substantive change," Stevens said.
He added: The aim is to build "greater momentum with Treasury, with the [Obama] administration, with members of Congress, with other financial stakeholders," so they all begin to say, " 'This does make sense, or I agree with this component or that component.' If we can start getting endorsement and thoughtful work product around these transition steps, the goal would be to create more incentive for [DeMarco] to begin to enact change, and not wait to see whether Mel Watt gets the job or not. And quite frankly, if Mel does get the job, I want him to be exposed to these now as well."