The Federal National Mortgage Association yesterday announced a $200 million program to underwrite housing in older neighborhoods of America's cities.
"This is not a subsidy for low income homeowners, nor is it a bailout of local institutions," said Oakley Hunter, Fannie Mae's chairman and president. He stressed it was not designed to to induce lenders to lower their appraisal standards or to grant loans at below market rates.
Instead, he said, Fannie Mae's purpose is to get new lenders not now doing business with its credit unions, mortgage bankers, state housing finance agencies, mutual savings banks, and other institutions with investment funds - to use it as a secondary market. To expedite the program, scheduled to begin on Feb. 1, new lenders will be allowed to use their own rather than Fannie Mae's standard forms. Moreover, its field agents will process the loans on site.
Hunter said he aimts in this way to reach institutions serving mainly the suburbs which he said "don't want to be bothered 'making loans in the inner city." The program, which was proposed last September, has the approval of Secretary Patricia Harris of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hunter declined to say what caused or what changes Harris - who has been a strong critic of his requested.
Fannie Mae had been criticized by the Carter administration and the Congress for not taking more interest in the inner city out of defense to its stockholders.
"If this action implies there is peace between the two forces, it will be good for the stock," Wall Street analyst Elliot Schneider commented yesterday.
Fannie Mae will purchase 200 million worth of mortgages on single family houses, cnndominiums and planned unit developments from pools created by lenders. The minimum pool amount will be about $280,000-, there is no maximum. If the program is successfyl, Hunter expressed confidence Fannie Mae's directors would make more funds available.
Whereas Fannie Mae has traditionally purchased entire mortgages, it will limit it s participation in these pools, to from 60 to 90 per cent of the amount. Its minimum purchase is $250,000. By having the lenders retain a 10 per cent or more interest in the mortgage pool, Fannie Mae hopes to deter them from making risky inner city loans. Losses will be shared between the seller and Fannie Mae.
In related news, John C. Opperman, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association, this week called for a federal loan guaranty program for commercial development in inner cities. "This kind of program would provide incentives for lenders to make loans to developers in areas they would ordinarily consider to be excessivly risky," he said.
That plan would guarantee lenders against loss of principal if commercial or industrial loans go bad. The lender would be repaid in the form of debentures on which the rate is linked to the loan rate. He pledged that MBA will be committing even more of its resources toward urban lending in the future.