In a Nov. 28 speech to the Exchequer Club in Washington, D.C., Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco said that many of his agency’s housing programs showed positive results and urged lawmakers to determine the FHFA’s future role in the housing market, American Banker reported.
DeMarco noted that he was heartened by the increased success of the Home Affordable Refinance Program, noting that 75 percent more borrowers benefited from it in just the first nine months of 2012 than in all of 2011.
Changes made to HARP in 2011 opened the program to more borrowers; American Banker reported that 700,000 borrowers have refinanced through the revised program through the end of September.
“It is possible that the program could reach nearly a million borrowers or more by the end of the year,” DeMarco said, American Banker reported. “In addition, over 40 percent of the HARP refinances in 2012 have gone to underwater borrowers, and an increasing percentage of HARP refinances in 2012 were for shorter-term mortgages that help borrowers build equity faster.”
However, DeMarco said that the government needed to be cautious about how much it subsidized the mortgage market in the future.
“FHFA is taking a number of steps — whether it is increasing guarantee fees or pursuing risk sharing alternatives — that have the potential to transfer some credit risk to the private sector,” DeMarco said, American Banker reported.
DeMarco’s comments about the role of the Federal Housing Administration (an entity his agency does not regulate) focused on the need to address the size of FHA loan limits. DeMarco noted that in some high-cost areas the loan limits are higher than the conforming loan limits imposed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He said that lawmakers should reconsider having American taxpayers guarantee loans.
“I am cautiously optimistic that the signs of stabilization — and in some places, strength — that have started to emerge in certain sectors of the housing market are signals that its recovery is underway,” DeMarco said, American Banker reported. He added that he would like to see a more secure and competitive mortgage market where nine out of 10 new mortgages are not backed by the government.