First accepted, first evicted

Here’s an angle on the subprime mortgage/housing meltdown that I didn’t expect the MSM to let out of the bag:

In 2004, as regulators warned that subprime lenders were saddling borrowers with mortgages they could not afford, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helped fuel more of that risky lending.

Eager to put more low-income and minority families into their own homes, the agency required that two government-chartered mortgage finance firms purchase far more “affordable” loans made to these borrowers. HUD stuck with an outdated policy that allowed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to count billions of dollars they invested in subprime loans as a public good that would foster affordable housing.

Housing experts and some congressional leaders now view those decisions as mistakes that contributed to an escalation of subprime lending that is roiling the U.S. economy.

The agency neglected to examine whether borrowers could make the payments on the loans that Freddie and Fannie classified as affordable. From 2004 to 2006, the two purchased $434 billion in securities backed by subprime loans, creating a market for more such lending. Subprime loans are targeted toward borrowers with poor credit, and they generally carry higher interest rates than conventional loans.

Today, 3 million to 4 million families are expected to lose their homes to foreclosure because they cannot afford their high-interest subprime loans. Lower-income and minority home buyers — those who were supposed to benefit from HUD’s actions — are falling into default at a rate at least three times that of other borrowers. (emphasis mine)

So a government agency & two symbiotically-connected corporations, ostensibly aiming to help people into homes, ended up helping them out of them too. Nice…

Fannie and Freddie finance about 40 percent of all U.S. mortgages, with $5.3 trillion in outstanding debt. Owned by private shareholders but chartered by Congress, they are exempt from state and local taxes and receive an estimated $6.5 billion-a-year federal subsidy because they can borrow money more cheaply than other investors. In return, they are expected to serve “public purposes,” including helping to make home buying more affordable.

Housing.  Yet another market that is Way More Centralized Than You Think.  Even with the subsidies they’re in a crater so big it should’ve caused the earth itself to turn inside out & fly into the nearest black hole.

Getting the government in on treating debt as an investment tool: whose bright idea was this?

In 1995, President Bill Clinton’s HUD agreed to let Fannie and Freddie get affordable-housing credit for buying subprime securities that included loans to low-income borrowers. The idea was that subprime lending benefited many borrowers who did not qualify for conventional loans. HUD expected that Freddie and Fannie would impose their high lending standards on subprime lenders.

Banks typically back prime loans with customers’ deposits. But subprime lenders often rely on money from Wall Street investors , who buy packages of loans as investments called mortgage-backed securities.

In 2000, as HUD revisited its affordable-housing goals, the housing market had shifted. With escalating home prices, subprime loans were more popular. […]

In 2001, HUD researchers warned of high foreclosure rates among subprime loans.

Given the very high concentration of these loans in low-income and African American neighborhoods, the growth in subprime lending and resulting very high levels of foreclosure is a real cause for concern,” an agency report said.

But by 2004, when HUD next revised the goals, Freddie and Fannie’s purchases of subprime-backed securities had risen tenfold. Foreclosure rates also were rising.

That year, President Bush’s HUD ratcheted up the main affordable-housing goal over the next four years, from 50 percent to 56 percent. John C. Weicher, then an assistant HUD secretary, said the institutions lagged behind even the private market and “must do more.”

For Wall Street, high profits could be made from securities backed by subprime loans. Fannie and Freddie targeted the least-risky loans. Still, their purchases provided more cash for a larger subprime market.

Politicians from both “major” parties agreeing on a policy where they’re both wrong?  Crap policy especially screwing already skeptical poor people and blacks?  Gee, who could’ve guessed?


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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