Op-eds and Articles

More Evidence That Ending Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Is a Mistake

By / 8.28.2013

Last week, I argued against Congressional proposals to “get government out of housing” by killing government backed mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now comes fresh evidence that buttresses my view that the private sector just isn’t ready to take up the slack if the two mortgage giants are eliminated.

This week, Redwood Trust, one of the largest issuers of private residential mortgages, released details of its latest securitization package. The good news is that it was Redwood’s 11th deal of the year, which shows private investors are coming back into the mortgage market totally dominated by Fannie and Freddie over the past five years. The bad news: A close reading of the package shows that private investors are still looking for ultra-safe, plain vanilla loans to pool and sell as securities. And they’re harder to come by.

No one doubts that since Fannie and Freddie were taken into conservatorship in 2008, private capital in mortgage markets has been scarce. Having lost billions when the housing bubble burst, private investors were in no hurry to resume lending. That’s why Fannie and Freddie were forced to expand their lending, from roughly 40 percent of the market pre-crisis to 77 percent in 2012.

Everybody knows we won’t return to “normalcy” in housing until their footprint shrinks and that of private investors expands. But House Republicans, who imagine that housing markets can get along just fine without the government guarantees Fannie and Freddie offer, might want to take a good look at Redwood’s latest package. It offers insight into the current appetite of private investors for mortgage risk.

Continue reading at U.S. News and World Report.