President Barack Obama will propose overhauling the U.S. mortgage finance system in a speech on Tuesday, weighing in on a tangled and polarizing problem that was central to the devastating financial crisis in 2007-2009 and that continues to slow the economic recovery, the White House said.
Obama will propose eliminating mortgage finance entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over time, replacing them with a system in which the private market buys home loans from lenders and repackages them as securities for investors, senior administration officials said. The mortgage securitization process is deemed essential to the smooth flow of capital to housing markets and the availability of credit.
The government’s role would be relegated to providing some form of insurance or guarantee, and to providing oversight, according to officials and a White House statement.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, originally chartered by Congress to expand mortgage finance, were taken over by the government in 2008 amid mounting losses in the financial crisis. Propping them up cost taxpayers $187.5 billion, although the firms have now returned to profitability.
“We have to end Fannie and Freddie going forward and replace them with a commitment to the notion that private capital must be wiped out before the government pays on any form of catastrophic guarantee or reinsurance,” a senior administration official told reporters.
The president generally agrees with the bipartisan Senate proposal that would replace Fannie and Freddie with a system that would allow private firms to securitize mortgages, a senior administration official told reporters in a conference call. A government reinsurer of mortgage securities could backstop private capital in a crisis, the official said.
Obama would want the Senate measure to go farther in helping first-time home buyers and in making sure affordable rental housing is available, the official added.
The Senate bill, though, remains at odds with the bill advancing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would liquidate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over five years and limit government loan guarantees.