The FHA is part of the solution to the housing meltdown
The Feb. 21 editorial “Housing solution or problem?” suggested that current policy is responsible for the losses at the Federal Housing Administration. This is not true. The premium increases and changes to risk management we have made over the past three years — efforts noted in the editorial — are responsible for the most profitable, highest-quality loans the agency has made in its 78-year history. This is a stark contrast to loans the agency insured before President Obama took office.
Further, the FHA has never received a bailout. With the recent mortgage foreclosure settlement, the banks did provide hundreds of millions of dollars to the FHA — but that was in redress for fraud and abuses that led to foreclosures. And while the agency has been strained by past loans, this administration has taken action.
Also, the assertion that private firms hold more cash on hand to offset losses than the FHA does is false. Where most private firms typically hold enough capital to compensate for four or five years of losses, Congress requires the FHA to hold enough reserves to cover more than 30 years of expected losses. That means, even today, while the agency holds less than the level mandated by Congress, it holds far more in reserves than does the average private firm.
Carefully managing the balance between helping the market recover and working to bring private capital back is difficult. But the FHA remains one of the most critical tools we have to ensure stability in this country’s mortgage market.
Carol Galante, Washington
The writer is acting commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration.