Fannie-Freddie Watchdog Vows Urgency in Housing Finance Overhaul

(Bloomberg) -- The new chief regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac says he takes the role with a “great sense of urgency” to address the biggest piece of unfinished business from the 2008 financial crisis: U.S. control of the mortgage-finance giants.

“The mortgage market was at the center of the last crisis, as it has been for many past financial crises,” Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria said Monday in his first official remarks as head of the agency. “I believe the foundations of our current mortgage finance system remain vulnerable.”

Calabria was sworn in last week as FHFA chief after he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a party-line vote on April 4. As head of the agency he played a role in creating while serving as a Senate aide, he will be integral to implementing the plan President Donald Trump announced last month to end U.S. control of Fannie and Freddie.

The mortgage-finance giants were seized by the federal government in 2008 as the housing market collapsed, and they received billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to weather the financial crisis and its aftermath. They have returned to profitability, but remain under conservatorship with lawmakers unable to reach agreement on a plan for overhauling the housing-finance system.

As FHFA director, Calabria has latitude to take some administrative actions without Congress, but he may be limited as the Treasury Department draws up its own reform blueprint in the coming months. Still, he may take methodical steps to reduce taxpayer risk and increase capital at the mortgage giants, according to a note from Beacon Policy Advisors.

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