The departing chief of Ginnie Mae is calling on lenders and Wall Street to pay more than lip service to affordable housing.
"We cannot afford to become complacent," Kevin G. Chavers said at a mortgage conference in New York this month.
"We have not completely eradicated barriers to fair-lending and housing opportunities," he said.
Mr. Chavers was speaking on the eve of his departure from Ginnie Mae. He is slated to receive President Clinton's nomination to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Speculation about his successor has been low key, although some mortgage executives have mentioned Paul Mullings, a savvy industry veteran now chief executive of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc.
Calling mortgage securities "the lifeblood of our program," Mr. Chavers said Ginnie Mae must continue efforts to make its products more appealing to investors and traders. But he said the agency has been making progress, by instituting new fee and security structures and by opening a new Wall Street office this month.
He said with Wall Street's cooperation, Ginnie Mae loans can help the mortgage industry usher in an era in which immigrants and low-income borrowers-prime Ginnie Mae targets-begin to fuel mortgage growth.
But Mr. Chavers said 10 lenders now account for almost two-thirds of Ginnie Mae volume, and he urged more mortgage bankers to step up lending through VA, FHA, and rural programs that Ginnie Mae supports.
Ginnie Mae must do its part as well, he said. "We need to keep checking up on ourselves."
The agency cannot be complacent in its dealings with Wall Street, which replenishes lenders' capital by distributing and trading securitized Ginnie Mae loans.
Indeed, with its guarantees on nearly one-third of the $1.7 trillion of mortgage securities outstanding, Ginnie Mae is indeed a powerhouse on Wall Street.
But the securities industry has long groused that the agency is hard to work with-unresponsive to marketing queries about structures and pricing and noncommittal about making improvements.
Mr. Chavers acknowledged that Ginnie Mae had "let its focus drift" from key goals of aligning with the securities industry to supply ready capital to borrowers.
But he also said that during his three-year tenure, the agency made dramatic strides to improve the relationships.
"Because we are committed to increasing the visibility of Ginnie Mae securities in the national and global marketplace," the agency has taken steps like lowering guarantee fees and improving technology for quick responses, Mr. Chavers said. "We've driven the philosophy of customer service through the entire enterprise."
Still, some traders complain that Ginnie Mae remains too bureaucratic. For instance, the agency operates with 70 federal employees, a very small staff to serve Wall Street and lenders, traders say.
Also, while the agency did reduce certain securities fees, these charges were very high to begin with, industry observers say.
Still, others in the securities business say they are seeing changes.
"There has absolutely been movement," said Joseph Lifrieri, a senior vice president in the global securities unit of Chase Manhattan Corp. Mr. Chavers "has shown that he wants Ginnie Mae to be responsive to the marketplace. I believe that can continue."