The American Mortgage System: Crisis and Reform

The Secondary Mortgage Market for Housing Finance in the United States: A Brief Overview

Understanding both the current problems in the secondary market and the proposed solutions requires an understanding of the role of the secondary mortgage market in U.S. housing finance. In this chapter, the authors focus in particular on the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which for decades were the largest players in the U.S. system. The authors conclude that while the described weaknesses within the chapter are important, and the structure of the GSE’s should surely be improved, it would be a mistake to assume that simply reforming the GSEs, without making significant reforms to the private-label market, would prevent another crisis.

The Community Reinvestment Act: Evaluating Past Performance and Reviewing Options for Reform

The passage of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in 1977 set in motion a bold experiment that has yet to achieve its full potential. This chapter analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of implementation of the CRA over the last 33 years and provides potential directions for reform, one of which recommends that the Obama administration designate one agency to take the lead and give the agency a tight timetable, sufficient staffing and analytic resources, and the authority to resolve disputes. While reform may also involve legislation, it is important to make sure that it does not become overly prescriptive and stifle innovation. The banking world will continue to evolve, as will the best ideas on how to revitalize and strengthen communities.

Improving U.S. Housing Finance Through Reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: A Framework for Evaluating Alternatives

This chapter lays out criteria for evaluating proposals for reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The authors introduce the basic goals of a healthy secondary market for both the single-family and multi-family markets, which include access to liquid credit markets nationwide, countercyclical stability and availability of safe products that are reasonably priced and clearly understood by borrowers and investors.The authors also offer a framework that will help describe and understand the different proposals for reform and how variants of Fannie and Freddie might fit into that picture. As federal government officials contemplate the future of these two entities, the authors hope that this chapter offers a useful framework to use in evaluating the alternative proposals.