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Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Bailouts Could Hit 363 Billion Dollars

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By Jim Puzzanghera

RISMEDIA, October 26, 2010—(MCT)—The taxpayer bailouts of housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cost as much as $363 billion through 2013, according to government projections. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which has regulated the former government-sponsored enterprises since they were seized during the financial crisis in 2008, said the figure was based on the worst of three scenarios for the economy and housing market that assumes a “deeper second recession.”

Under the best-case scenario, which would be a “stronger near-term recovery” in housing prices, the bailouts of Fannie and Freddie would reach $221 billion. The third scenario, in which housing prices continue on their current projections, would result in the combined bailouts reaching $238 billion.

So far, Fannie and Freddie have received about $148 billion in taxpayer money since they were seized by Bush administration officials and placed in government conservatorship. Taxpayers now own 79.9% of the two companies.

“These projections are intended to give policymakers and the public useful snapshots of potential outcomes for the taxpayer support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Edward J. DeMarco, FHFA’s acting director. “These are not predictions; the results reflect the potential effects of a limited set of hypothetical changes in house prices, a key variable driving credit losses for the enterprises.”

DeMarco told a House subcommittee last month that taxpayer losses from Fannie and Freddie likely wouldn’t top $400 billion, as some have feared, but did not provide specific data. In December, concerns mounted about the potential cost of the bailouts after the Obama administration lifted a $400 billion cap through 2012.

Officials said they did so to provide certainty to the real estate market that the government would stand behind the agencies as lawmakers and the White House began wrestling with their future. Many Republicans have blamed Fannie and Freddie for triggering the subprime mortgage problems and complained that the recently enacted financial reform law did not deal with the future of the two entities.

But the law did call for the administration to produce a plan by January, and Congress has been conducting hearings on the fate of Fannie and Freddie and the broader question of government involvement in the housing finance market.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are almost singlehandedly keeping the housing finance market going as investors have fled because of the financial crisis and deep recession. Together, they hold about $1.6 trillion worth of mortgage loans.

The additional projected losses would come from further eroding of the value of loans, particularly subprime mortgages that Fannie and Freddie bought before the government seizures, the FHFA said.

(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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