Friday, June 26, 2009

Rhonda Porter asks why we have both Fannie and Freddie

Back in 1987, when I started working on housing finance issues, I wondered this very thing. So I spoke with the person in charge of secondary market business for a Wisconsin Savings and Loan called First Financial (I wish I could remember his name now).

He had a crisp explanation: Fannie Mae was a Savings and Loan for Mortgage Bankers, while Freddie Mac was a mortgage banker for Savings and Loans. This was in fact the reason for their original existence. Fannie has been around since 1938, and it became private in 1968, and its purpose was to raise money from capital markets to fund mortgages originated by mortgage bankers. Between 1938-68, its business was entirely FHA and VA loans; thereafter it could fund private sector loans.

Freddie was chartered in 1970 at least in part in response to regional differences in the availability of mortgage credit. At that time, around 60 percent of mortgages were held by Savings and Loan Associations. These S&Ls were local businesses, who could not lend outside of their communities (I will need to double check, but my recollection is that they could not lend more then 150 miles away from their front door).

As young people migrated from the Northeast and Midwest to the sunbelt, leaving their parents and grandparents behind, there was a geographic mismatch between the location of deposits and the demand for mortgage credit. Freddie was invented to buy loans from S&Ls, turn them into securities, and sell them in the secondary market. This allowed money to flow where it was needed.

The distinction between the two institutions disappeared in 1992, with the passage of the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act (FHEFSSA). I am guessing that the reason we kept two around was to have some competition in the MBS issuance market.


Rhonda Porter said...

Richard, I haven't heard that before--thanks! I've reposted this on my Facebook page.

Austin Kelly said...

The Federal Home Loan Bank System, chartered in 1932, was created to provide a national source of funds for local thrifts. Any thrift could borrow from their FHLB (cooperatively owned by the thrifts) and the FHLBs borrowed collectively in a national market.

Freddie was created as part of the Home Loan Bank System (owned by the Home Loan Banks, which were, in turn, owned by the thrifts) to get into the securitization game. A small thrift couldn't really expand its volume if it had to hold all its loans on balance sheet. But if it could sell them off like the mortgage banks could ...

Richard K. Green said...

Austin, please send me the full text of your comment, and I will post.

Austin Kelly said...

That was the full text.

The ... was purely elliptical (g)

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