As part of the Administration’s plan to increase homebuyer use of private mortgage insurance (PMI) on mortgages underwritten or purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has proposed changes to shift the risk of loss on mortgage defaults and foreclosures from the U.S. Treasury to the private sector.

The two government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) currently require PMI or Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-provided insurance on some but not all mortgage loans with loan-to-value ratios (LTVs) over 80%. [For more on the comparative costs of PMI and MIP, see the first tuesday Market Chart, FHA, PMI, or neither?]

The FHFA now seeks to make GSE-based financing more comparable to financing independently provided by the private sector, partially in an effort to recoup losses sustained by Fannie and Freddie (and thus the U.S. Treasury) during the Great Recession and financial crisis. Fannie and Freddie have been repeatedly criticized since the collapse of the housing market for their loss-generating business practices and lack of “skin in the game.” [For other recent attempts to encourage private-style lending practices from GSEs, see the May 2011 first tuesday article, Fannie and Freddie show some skin.]

first tuesday take: Political ill will for Fannie and Freddie as they currently exist seems likely to succeed in the long run — either by making the GSEs fully-independent private entities or dissolving them altogether. Neither step, however, can take place successfully unless private mortgage bankers step up to the plate and deliver the loans it is their business function to make.

The federal government needs to quickly take the GSEs out of the lending business – especially by removing their government guarantees. Only then, when the playing field is leveled, will private mortgage bankers see they can achieve profitability through fully-regulated mortgage activity structured to prevent any hazardous competitive advantage in the market.

With luck, we can soon do away with both GSEs once and for all, and in the process be rid of their government-backed guarantees that have so badly misaligned mortgage funding and misallocated personal wealth in the real estate industry. With the removal of these agencies, and the simultaneous elimination of harmful mortgage interest tax deductions, it will finally be possible to achieve long-term stability in sales volume and prices. [For more on the flaws of mortgage tax deductions, see the June 2011 first tuesday article, Subsidizing the American dream.]

RE: “FHFA changes may boost private mortgage insurance”, from Housingwire.com