WASHINGTON - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac scored a public relations coup when President Clinton announced their latest affordable-housing programs at a Labor Day ceremony in South Florida.

The agencies have pledged to securitize $600 million in loans for affordable housing. In turn, AFL-CIO pension funds made a commitment to buy the mortgage-backed securities.

The Federal National Mortgage Association committed $400 million and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. pledged $200 million.

The money will be used to renovate and construct multifamily housing for low-income families around the nation.

The projects will help both companies meet various affordable-housing goals set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"Anytime the President can announce a program you're involved in, it's pretty exciting," said Charles Olsen, Freddie Mac vice president of multifamily production, who attended the Florida ceremony.

Fannie Mae announced a smaller joint venture last year with the AFL-CIO Investment Trusts, in which Fannie committed itself to securitizing affordable housing loans of about $50 million and the trusts agreed to buy those securities.

Most of that commitment has been realized, according to Larry Dale, executive director of Fannie Mae's national housing impact division.

Mr. Dale said he expected Fannie to make good on the latest $400 million pledge within the next year or two.

Not only is this the first joint venture between Freddie Mac and the Investment Trusts, it also is the first time that Freddie has locked in rates for affordable housing loans to be delivered a couple of years later.

Locking in the rates now reduces the cost of financing the project, Mr. Olsen said. He said Freddie hopes to do more such deals with the AFL-CIO pension group, adding: "We think it's a prototype. If this program works, it'll be business as usual to do these deals."

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