Thursday, May 13 2010
With the housing recovery still fragile, it’s hard to look ahead with anything but caution. However, the long-term prospects for the market are “incredible,” FHA Commissioner David Stevens told REALTORS® yesterday in the opening forum of the 2010 NAR Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.
Young households today represent a demographic block larger than even the baby boomers, and their entry into the housing market promises to help build “an incredible real estate market in the future,” said Stevens. But first the housing market must move from recovery to stability and then to long-term growth, and that will only happen if investors regain confidence in the mortgage market. And for that to happen, the mortgage market must be reformed to reward transparent financing structures.
Stevens credited NAR’s role in helping Congress and the administration stabilize the market through its support of a “mosaic” of pragmatic policies, such as:
• The Federal Reserve’s $1.25 trillion dollar investment in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage backed securities, which helped keep interest rates historically low.
That mix of programs has led to today’s housing recovery but the job won’t be finished, he says, until the federal government steps out of the picture and the market stands on its own. “We constantly talk about exit strategy,” Stevens said, referring to the administration’s goal of unwinding its mortgage-market interventions.
To help protect the recovery, Stevens urged REALTORS® while they’re in Washington this week to convince lawmakers to pass FHA reform legislation under consideration in the House as soon as possible. That legislation, H.R. 5072, would enable FHA to lower the upfront mortgage insurance premium and instead fold a higher annual premium into the loan, a change that would align FHA with the approach used in the private sector. The legislation would also give FHA more tools for clamping down on bad lenders.
The changes in the mortgage insurance premium are needed to help FHA improve its financial picture and restore its reserves to its congressionally mandated level. Not having the authority it needs to change its premium structure “is costing FHA $300 million a month in money it’s not getting,” he said.
“You are the recovery,” he told the packed room of REALTORS®. “Now we’ve got to finish the job.”