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Hearing of the House Financial Services Committee - A Way Forward for Housing Finance Reform: Finding Sustainable Solutions to Ensure Access, Affordability, and Taxpayer Protection

Hearing

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Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, convened her second bipartisan panel this morning on Capitol Hill to discuss various proposals for reform of the Government-Sponsored Enterprises and the secondary mortgage market. Today's discussion, builds on the April session by providing an opportunity for industry stakeholders to share their point of view on how to approach reform.

"I convened this discussion today because I believe it is essential for the Congress to move forward and consider housing finance reform proposals," said Ranking Member Waters in her opening remarks. She continued, "I am very much interested to hear from the industry participants we have here today about their perspectives on reform."

Discussion proved to be a very substantive, as industry participants gave their perspective on reform and addressed the recently unveiled Corker-Warner Housing Finance Bill. The panelists included Bill Hampel, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the Credit Union National Association, Anthony Hutchingson, Senior Policy Representative at the National Association of Realtors, Ann Grochala, Vice President of Lending and Housing Policy for the Independent Community Bankers of America, Mike Fratantoni, Vice President of Single-Family Research and Policy Development at the Mortgage Bankers Association, Cindy Chetti, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the National Multi Housing Council, and Tom Deutsch, Executive Director at the American Securitization Forum.

Attending the discussion were Representatives John C. Carney, Jr., Michael E. Capuano, Al Green, Nydia M. Velázquez, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Dan Kildee, Joyce Beatty, Carolyn Maloney, Bill Foster, and Melvin L. Watt.

"Now is the time to set the foundation for a new housing finance system that ensures access and affordability, while also protecting taxpayers," stated Waters. She told those present that she hoped the Financial Services Committee will move "forward aggressively" by beginning to "hold hearings on some of the various proposals that have been submitted."

Below is Ranking Member Waters' opening statement:

A Way Forward for Housing Finance Reform: Finding Sustainable Solutions to Ensure Access, Affordability, and Taxpayer Protection
Good morning. As the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, I am very pleased to welcome all of you to the second in a series of bipartisan panel briefings I'm organizing during the 113th Congress to discuss emerging issues in housing and financial services.

As I mentioned at the last panel in April, I hosted three of these panels during the last Congress and found the interaction between the panelists, the Members in attendance, and the audience to be a very good compliment to the work we do more formally in the Committee. This type of setting allows for a more conversational dialogue to occur, and it can help inform us as we engage in Committee hearings and mark-ups.

I convened this discussion today because I believe it is essential for the Congress to move forward and consider housing finance reform proposals. Now is the time to set the foundation for a new housing finance system that ensures access and affordability, while also protecting taxpayers.

As everyone here today knows, reform is particularly ripe for discussion now that the stabilization of the housing market is really taking shape. After receiving about $187 billion in taxpayer support following their entry into conservatorship in 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are once again profitable. Together, they will have paid the Treasury Department about $132 billion in dividends by the end of June.

At the same time, Director DeMarco is taking aggressive steps to shrink the footprint of the Enterprises and use his administrative authority at the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to engage in under-the-radar housing finance reform. This includes everything from the joint securitization infrastructure that FHFA is facilitating, to the Servicing Alignment Initiative, reducing the GSEs footprint in multifamily housing, to the Enterprises launching risk-sharing transactions that will try to gauge the private market's appetite for mortgage credit risk.

While the Director is quietly pursuing these reforms, we're also seeing a number of other policy changes take shape that will leave a lasting imprint on our mortgage markets. As home prices stabilize and the economy recovers, the Federal Reserve has indicated it is willing to reduce its support for mortgages, which helped send interest rates up significantly in just the last month. The Administration has taken aggressive steps to shore-up the insurance fund of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), though I think we all acknowledge that legislative reform is also needed. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is completing their mortgage rules under Dodd-Frank, trying to balance concerns about access to credit with a desire to prevent the types of predatory lending that led to the 2008 crisis. And our banking regulators may finalize Basel III next month, trying to sort out how various categories of mortgage loans will be treated for capital purposes.

Just this week, we saw substantial movement forward on housing finance reform, with Senators Corker and Warner introducing a bipartisan reform proposal to wind-down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and replace them with a government re-insurance company that provides a catastrophic guarantee on mortgage-backed securities. I hope to discuss this proposal and others more thoroughly during today's panel.

And of course, we saw my colleague and dear friend, Congressman Mel Watt, perform spectacularly at his nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. I hope that the Senate moves forward quickly to confirm Congressman Watt to that position.

So with that said, I am very much interested to hear from the industry participants we have here today about their perspectives on reform.

At our last panel discussion, we heard about proposals to create new, chartered mortgage institutions that would sell credit insurance on qualified mortgage-backed securities; we heard about a plan to allow the GSEs to recapitalize through retained earnings; and we heard about a plan that would have a new Public Guarantor sell a limited government guarantee for the single and multi-family markets. This last structure is very similar to the Corker-Warner proposal unveiled this week, and I'm curious to hear the panelists' thoughts on it now that it has been fleshed out in legislative text.

I hope that we can have a robust discussion, and one that gives more perspective on the various approaches that have been floated by both Members of Congress and outside stakeholders. Creating a stable and liquid housing finance system that provides certainty to market participants is crucial to the health of the American economy, and should be a top priority of the Financial Services Committee.


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