Trump Administration Unveils Newest Fannie, Freddie Reform Proposal

September 6, 2019

The National Association of REALTORS® and other real estate groups commended the White House’s efforts to move the ball forward on reform of the nation’s housing finance system. Proposals released by the Department of Housing & Urban Development and the Treasury Department on Thursday suggest steps for modernizing FHA and ending the federal government’s decade-long conservatorship of the government-sponsored enterprises. The proposals were in response to a March 27 memo from President Donald Trump, directing the agencies to propose meaningful reform to reduce the risk to taxpayers in future economic downturns.

The government took control of Fannie and Freddie during the 2008 financial crisis, putting it under the conservatorship of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and investing $191 billion in the agencies. Since then, the companies have returned to profitability and paid nearly $300 million back into the U.S. Treasury, according to Pro Publica’s Bailout Tracker.

The White House proposal suggests dozens of reforms aimed at protecting Fannie and Freddie, including expanding private markets and creating new competitors in the home loan arena. The timeline remains vague, and full details of the proposal are still coming to light. “We look forward to reviewing the proposal in more detail and are optimistic that, at a minimum, the White House’s efforts will shed light on the remaining mile markers on the path to reform, along with the critical role GSEs and the Federal Housing Administration play in America’s housing market,” NAR President John Smaby said in a statement.

Ahead of Thursday’s announcement, NAR posted an FAQ on the White House’s GSE reform proposal.

Smaby said the association remains committed to working with the White House and Congress to secure “pragmatic improvements to our housing finance system” and will be vigilant in negotiating provisions to protect the housing market and the important role government plays in ensuring the flow of capital for housing. NAR has proposed its own blueprint for GSE reform, which “highlights competition, protects taxpayers, and remedies the failures of the pre-crisis system while ensuring equal access for responsible, mortgage-ready Americans in every community—safeguarding the role the GSEs were intended to play in our housing market,” Smaby said.

The Obama Administration also released a housing finance reform proposal in 2011. Like that proposal, the new White House proposals face high regulatory and legislative hurdles, and NAR analysts say you can expect no change in the near term.