Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will have to increase their funding of mortgages for low- and moderate-income home buyers, under a new rule the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced yesterday.
Under the rule, for example, the goal for low- and moderate-income home buyers would be raised from the current 50 percent to 56 percent in 2008 -- 1 percentage point less than the 57 percent goal HUD proposed in the spring. The goal for loans in so-called underserved areas would increase from the current 36 percent to 39 percent in 2008, instead of the 40 percent that HUD had proposed.
The department lowered the goals slightly because it decided to use a different source of data to measure the market's overall performance, said John C. Weicher, assistant secretary for housing and Federal Housing Commissioner. To meet the new goals, Fannie and Freddie will need to buy over the next four years an estimated 400,000 more qualifying loans than the 10 million loans they otherwise would have bought, Weicher said.
The rule was intended to make the giant government-sponsored companies match or lead the mortgage industry in funding for the target markets, HUD officials said. The department has alleged that, despite their federal charters and government-conferred privileges, Fannie and Freddie have lagged the industry in the percentage of their business devoted to groups such as minority first-time home buyers.
Freddie Mac spokeswoman Sharon McHale said the new goals may be so high that the company will be forced to reduce its funding for other borrowers, potentially "making it harder for workforce families and working families with children to get a mortgage."
Fannie Mae "will be working with HUD and our housing partners to minimize any unintended consequences for housing that may result from the new goals," spokesman Charles Greener said.
Fannie and Freddie have said that it would be hard to meet the proposed percentages in years when there is a big demand for them to fund refinancings for people who already own homes. HUD said it will seek more public comment on that issue and consider addressing it with a separate rule.
The government chartered Fannie and Freddie to make sure that banks and other lenders have enough cash to meet the demand for home loans. The companies borrow money from investors to buy mortgages from lenders. In another development yesterday, Freddie Mac, still trying to upgrade its accounting systems and internal controls after correcting billions of dollars of errors last year, said it aims to report quarterly and annual financial results for 2004 by March 31, 2005. The company has not reported quarterly results on a timely basis since it said in January 2003 that it was working on a correction. The company said it aims to report results for the first two quarters of next year in August.
The tab for cleaning up Freddie's accounting and systems continues to rise. This year, the company has spent about $200 million, on top of about $172 million in accounting and legal costs last year, a $125 million settlement with regulators and a $75 million reserve for investor lawsuits, Chief Financial Officer Martin F. Baumann said yesterday in a conference call with analysts.