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Treasury Official Says Administration is ‘Ready, Willing, and Able’ to Talk Housing Finance Reform

finances [1]Speaking at the National Council of State Housing Agencies Legislative Conference on Monday, the Department of U.S. Department of Treasury [2] Counselor to the Secretary for Housing Finance Policy Dr. Michael Stegman said that the Obama Administration is "ready, willing, and able" to talk housing finance reform, which has been a hot-button topic in recent months as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain in conservatorship of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

"The Administration remains ready, willing, and able to work in good faith with members of both parties to complete this important but unfinished piece of financial reform," Stegman said. "As memories of the financial crisis fade, we cannot become complacent.  The best time to act is when the housing market is well along the path to recovery and credit markets are normalizing, not on the precipice of a new economic shock when there is little time to be thoughtful."

While Stegman's remarks on the subject of housing finance reform may seem optimistic, many mortgage indusrtry professionals are not convinced. On the same morning that Stegman delivered his speech at the NCSHA's conference, the Collingwood Group [3] and the Five Star Institute [4] released their March 2015 Mortgage Industry Outlook [5] report containing a survey in which 60 percent of mortgage industry professionals polled said there was "zero chance" of housing finance reform happening under the Obama Administration, which ends in January 2017. About 34 percent of respondents in that survey said they believed there was less than a 25 percent chance of housing finance reform taking place under Obama's watch.

Stegman said the Administration would not end the conservatorship of the GSEs without a viable alternative that provides that elusive balance between eliminating taxpayer risk while still allowing credit access.

"I know that many of you want to know where we are on housing finance reform," Stegman said. "On this subject, let me be clear: the Administration stands by our belief that the only way to responsibly end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is through legislation that puts in place a sustainable housing finance system that has private capital at risk ahead of taxpayers, while preserving access to mortgage credit during severe downturns."

Stegman also discussed the Hardest Hit Fund, which the government created in response to the financial crisis, and stated that to date the fund has provided more than $3.8 billion for 70 programs to help approximately 227,000 homeowners in the communities that were hit the hardest by the recession.