The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) told Congress recently that it will work with lawmakers to make changes to the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners (PATH) Act legislative proposal to ensure that it provides the federal support necessary to maintain a strong and liquid housing finance system.
Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, NAHB CEO Jerry Howard urged the committee to modify the PATH Act to make sure that the federal government continues to provide a backstop for a reliable and adequate flow of affordable housing credit in all economic and financial conditions.
“NAHB believes federal support is particularly important to ensure that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages, the bedrock of the nation’s housing finance system since the 1930s, remain available at reasonable interest rates and terms,” said Howard. “As currently drafted, the PATH Act does not provide the federal support necessary to ensure a strong and liquid housing finance system, and we urge the committee to make the necessary changes.”
There are some positive elements in the PATH Act, and NAHB agrees that private capital must be the dominant source of mortgage credit, Howard said. However, ensuring the safety and stability of the housing finance system cannot be left entirely to the private sector.
“The historical record clearly shows that the private sector is not capable of providing a consistent and adequate supply of housing credit without a federal backstop,” he said.
NAHB has recommended to the committee that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be gradually phased into a private sector oriented system, where the federal government’s role is explicit but its exposure is limited. Federal support would be limited to catastrophic situations where carefully calibrated levels of private capital and insurance reserves would be depleted before any public funds were employed to shore up the mortgage market.