The Bush administration, pressing its regulatory battle with Fannie Mae, is challenging the housing finance company's claim to be a champion of minority and low-income home buyers.
In a recent letter to Fannie Mae chief executive Franklin D. Raines, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson refused to back down from his criticism that Fannie has shown a "failure to lead."
HUD has proposed rules that would require Fannie and its rival, Freddie Mac, to devote more of their funds to low- and moderate-income home buyers. Freddie Mac told investors this week that the rule could have a "material adverse impact" on the company's financial results.
Raines visited Jackson on June 10 to argue Fannie's case, but after reviewing Fannie's own analysis of its performance, Jackson reaffirmed his position.
"I believe that HUD's data proves that, on average, Fannie Mae lagged the mortgage finance market to low- and moderate-income families, especially with regard to minority first-time home buyers," Jackson wrote. Bloomberg News reported on the June 22 letter yesterday.
Jackson agreed that Fannie had improved its performance but said it had "much left to accomplish."
Between 1999 and 2001, within the universe of mortgages that Fannie Mae had the potential to buy, loans to minority first-time home buyers accounted for 10.6 percent of the total but only 6.6 percent of the loans acquired by Fannie Mae, Jackson wrote.
Fannie Mae spokeswoman Janice Daue yesterday declined to comment on the letter or to provide the analysis that Raines gave Jackson. However, in a February news release on the company's 2003 performance, Raines said, "Fannie Mae exceeded our affordable housing goals because minority and lower-income Americans are the core of our mission driven business."
In 2003, Fannie Mae financed more than $246 billion in loans to minority families, up 81 percent from the year before, the news release said.
Chartered by the federal government, Fannie and Freddie buy loans from mortgage lenders and repackage them as securities for sale to investors. Because of their government sponsorship, they are able to borrow money at a discount, an advantage that government analysts have estimated is worth billions. The companies are required to meet various targets for promoting affordable housing, which HUD is proposing to raise. Amid intense lobbying, the department extended today's deadline for public comments on the proposal to July 16.
In a recent interview, Freddie Mac chief executive Richard F. Syron said his company had not paid enough attention to the affordable housing mission and instead regarded it as a "tax" on what was otherwise "a profit-maximizing organization." But he has also said that the company would have difficulty meeting the proposed goals.