It has been a busy week in Washington, D.C., with new appointments and nominations that could, directly and indirectly, impact the housing industry. We take a look at all the new people who are likely to impact housing regulation in 2019.
A New Financial Services Committee Head
When the Democrats took the House in the midterm elections, Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was pegged as a favorite to succeed the current House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex). The week began with the Representative from California earning the nomination to chair the committee from her fellow Democrats.
According to the Washington Examiner, Waters, who has been a vocal critic of some of the administration's current policies, said that she would "prioritize protecting consumers and investors from abusive financial practices," while ensuring "strong safeguards" to prevent another financial crisis.
The Examiner said that she also promised to bolster affordable housing opportunities while promoting diversity and inclusion in the financial services sector. Waters also plans to keep a close eye on the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP) that just got a new head last week. "Of particular importance is ensuring that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not dismantled by Trump’s appointees. This critical agency must be allowed to resume its work of protecting consumers from unfair, deceptive or abusive practices without interference from the Trump Administration," she said.
The New BCFP Director
Kathleen Kraninger began her stint as the BCFP's new Director this week after she was confirmed by the Senate to lead the agency for five years on December 6. At a press conference, Kraninger answered questions ranging from which policies laid down by the outgoing Acting Director, Mick Mulvaney would she change and not change, including changing the name from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP).
Kraninger said that she would take a fresh look at Mulvaney's decision to change the name of the agency while acknowledging the internal BCFP report that the name change would cost the industry $300 million. Additionally, she said that she cared “more about what the agency does than what it is called.” Her regulatory priorities, she said, were reflected in the BCFP's most recent semi-annual regulatory agenda.
The FHFA Nom
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced the nomination of Dr. Mark Calabria, who is currently the Chief Economist to Vice President Mike Pence, to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency for five years after the term of the current FHFA Director, Mel Watt expires in January.
If confirmed, Calabria would have significant influence over the housing finance market at the FHFA. According to Bloomberg, Calabria had previously pushed for putting Fannie and Freddie into receivership. “Calabria, a former scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, has also called for abolishing the mortgage-interest deduction, something millions of homeowners benefit from. In addition, he has supported getting rid of government subsidies for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage,” Bloomberg said. Read about what the industry and regulators had to say about the nomination here.
Looking at 2020
On Thursday, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julián Castro, took a step towards throwing his hat in the ring for the 2020 Presidential elections by forming a presidential exploratory committee. However, the Democrat from Texas said that he would announce a decision on January 12, 2019. "I know where I'm leaning, for sure," Castro told the Associated Press.
An exploratory committee usually is a formality before a candidate launches a presidential campaign. It legally allows potential candidates to begin raising money.