FHA Swamped By Defaults; Congressional Report Shows FHA Could Suffer Losses as High as $115 Billion; Shut Down Fannie, Freddie, FHA
The Federal Housing Administration's (FHA) losses over the next 30 years could be much higher than originally projected, according to the findings of a congressional committee. The dismal forecast has some bracing for another taxpayer-financed bailout.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is reporting that a worst-case scenario stress test conducted last year estimated the FHA could suffer losses as high as $115 billion. That forecast is significantly worse than the one reported by independent auditor Integrated Financial Engineering Inc., which projected losses of $65 billion for the 79-year old agency.
Swamped by Defaults
The primary cause of the FHA's troubles is the plague of underwater mortgages that has struck the housing sector in recent years. During the late housing bubble, the FHA lost market share as more private lenders sold “subprime” loans to home buyers. But with the collapse of the housing market in 2007-08, much of that business returned to the FHA. While the agency has played a major role in propping up home prices, it has also been overwhelmed by defaults.
John Ligon, senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, writes:
The FHA has a core mission of providing targeted support to creditworthy low- and moderate-income, minority, and first-time homebuyers. The FHA cannot responsibly achieve these intended objectives when it is expanding its market share and competing with the conventional market for high-cost mortgage loans.
According to Ligon, the only way the FHA can avoid a bailout is to reduce its market share by lowering maximum loan limits to $325,000 over the next four years, raise credit requirements for borrowers, and institute “burden sharing” with loan originators by reducing insurance coverage from the current 100 percent to 50 percent by 2016.
While these reforms may improve FHA's balance sheet over the long term, they would also reduce market liquidity, which in turn could cause home prices to fall. Thus homeowners with little home equity now could find themselves underwater on their mortgages, which could trigger more defaults.
But it is precisely this apparent dilemma that government-sponsored enterprises like FHA have created with their meddling into the market that has some calling for a more radical approach.
‘Shut Down Fannie, Freddie, FHA’
“I would shut down Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA, HUD, and such similar programs and agencies,” says Mike “Mish” Shedlock, a market analyst and host of the Web site Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis. “The more money government threw at housing, the less affordable housing became until the bubble popped.”
He says numerous government agencies and programs “should be shut down and things would be far better off because government can never allocate money better than the free market.”