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Housing

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Urban Institute researchers monitor and assess housing market trends, affordable housing, homelessness, federal housing assistance, racial disparities and housing discrimination, and community revitalization. We recommended greater regulation and reforms for subprime mortgages before the housing market collapse and continue to follow its effects on families and neighborhoods. Our research informs decisionmakers with neighborhood-level data and evaluations of federal housing programs. Read more.

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A Realistic Assessment of Housing Finance Reform (Commentary)
Laurie Goodman

In August 2008, the GSEs went into conservatorship, and the clear intent was that they were never going to re-emerge; a new system, with a larger role for private capital providers was to take its place. Nearly six years later, GSE reform remains a dream: the government essentially guarantees 80% of new mortgage debt, and credit availability is limited. In this paper, we take a look at the current system, evaluate the proposals for GSE reform, and offer some thoughts on what is being done and what more can be done without a legislative solution.

Posted to Web: August 18, 2014Publication Date: August 01, 2014

Guarantee Fees - An Art, Not a Science (Commentary)
Laurie Goodman, Jim Parrott, Ellen Seidman, Jun Zhu

This commentary examines the potential impact of increasing the guarantee fees that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge lenders. We identify the three most important assumptions made in determining the fees, conclude that transparency regarding these assumptions is critical, and that, under any reasonable set of assumptions, the fees should not be increased for the least risky loans. We also conclude that the GSEs' mission should be taken into account in determining the appropriate capital requirement.

Posted to Web: August 14, 2014Publication Date: August 14, 2014

Nonbank Specialty Servicers: What's the Big Deal? (Commentary)
Pamela Lee

Following the crisis, nonbank specialty servicers rapidly expanded their portfolios of distressed loans. This has contributed to a significant market change: in 2011, the 10 largest mortgage servicers were all banks; by 2013, only five of the top 10 were banks, and the other five were nonbank servicers. The rapid growth and lack of a federal regulator have contributed to significant, heated regulatory scrutiny. This commentary discusses major concerns raised about the largest nonbank servicers, focusing on the three fastest-growing large nonbank servicers. We explore the regulatory and market framework driving their striking growth, then address the major charges against them, in an effort to elevate the debate and inform sound policy.

Posted to Web: August 04, 2014Publication Date: August 04, 2014

Wealth in America: Policies to Support Mobility (Research Brief)
Signe-Mary McKernan, Caleb Quakenbush, Caroline Ratcliffe, C. Eugene Steuerle

What role can policymakers play in helping families rebuild their balance sheets after the Great Recession and in helping young families, families of color, and those with less education who were falling behind even prior to it? This brief, based on a convening of nearly 25 national wealth-building experts, presents the facts and identifies four promising policy reforms: (1) providing universal children’s savings accounts; (2) reforming the mortgage interest deduction to better target incentives; (3) expanding access to retirement accounts and automatic enrollment; and (4) promoting emergency savings while addressing barriers such as asset tests in safety net programs.

Posted to Web: July 22, 2014Publication Date: July 22, 2014

Housing Finance At A Glance: A Monthly Chartbook: July 2014 (Fact Sheet / Data at a Glance)
Laurie Goodman, Ellen Seidman, Jim Parrott, Jun Zhu, Bing Bai, Pamela Lee, Taz George, Maia Woluchem, Alison Rincon

The July edition of At A Glance, HFPC’s reference guide for mortgage and housing market data, includes updated indicators related to credit availability, the state of the GSE portfolios, and the latest mortgage origination and housing market projections.

Posted to Web: July 22, 2014Publication Date: July 22, 2014

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