MBA to Senate: Hurry up and confirm new FHFA head

by Ryan Smith31 Oct 2013

The Mortgage Bankers Association on Wednesday urged the Senate to confirm the president’s pick to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

President Obama nominated Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to head the FHFA back in April, but Watt faces strong opposition from Republicans who say the president should pick someone with experience in mortgage finance markets rather than a politician.

MBA, however, said Watt’s work in Congress qualifies him to run the agency, which has been without an official director since the departure of James Lockhart in 2009.

“Congressman Watt would bring considerable experience to the post of director. His two decades of work on the House Financial Services Committee gives him a strong base of understanding on a wide variety of public policy issues related to housing finance,” said MBA Chairman E.J. Burke. “This familiarity and understanding would serve him well in this new position.” 

FHFA is currently headed by Lockhart’s former deputy, Acting Director Edward DeMarco. DeMarco got into hot water with the industry in September when he raised the prospect of cutting maximum loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 

A raft of industry associations -- including MBA -- has protested the plan, and dozens of congressional representatives signed a letter questioning DeMarco’s authority to implement it. DeMarco has stood firm in the teeth of industry condemnation, however, reiterating during a speech at MBA’s national conference Monday that he plans to lower the loan limits sometime next year.

MBA officials seem to think Watt, on the other hand, is someone who could work with the industry.

“MBA has had a longstanding relationship with Congressman Watt, and has had the chance to engage him directly on a number of occasions since his nomination was announced,” Burke said Wednesday. “MBA would be ready and willing to work with him in his new capacity to provide technical support and expertise as he oversees the restructuring of the secondary mortgage market. Based on these factors, we would urge the Senate to approve his nomination.”

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