A top lawmaker has slammed the Federal Housing Finance Agency for what she said was its inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) accused FHFA Director Mark Calabria of “putting his personal political agenda ahead of the American public.”
Waters said that the FHFA has failed to place enough focus on assisting homeowners impacted financially by the pandemic, citing a recent study that found that many homeowners most in need of mortgage relief are unaware of their options.
“Unfortunately, this administration’s ideological agenda continually gets in the way of meeting the current demands of the housing market and the people our government stands to protect,” she said. “Instead of focusing on how to help homeowners and renters and how to support the housing market during this national emergency, Director Calabria’s actions suggest that he is first and foremost interested in filling the coffers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac so that he can continue to move forward with his plans to release them from conservatorship.”
Waters also blasted the FHFA’s plan to impose a new fee on refinance loans – a move that has already been met with universal disapprobation from industry groups.
“Rather than allowing homeowners to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates, Director Calabria announced a new refinance fee that would take some of the savings that would have otherwise gone into the pockets of families and instead redirect that money into the pockets of Fannie and Freddie,” she said.
The congresswoman also took a shot at Calabria’s plan to impose a new capital framework for the GSEs.
“Not only is the timing of this major change inappropriate because it would cause serious market disruption in the middle of a recession, but many have raised concerns that these changes would actually make the housing market less prepared for the next economic crisis,” she said. “Many have also raised concerns that the rule Director Calabria has put forth would hamper the ability of the GSEs to carry out their mission of promoting access to credit to underserved borrowers.”
Waters also found time to take a swipe at Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who did not appear at the hearing, citing a scheduling conflict.
“Secretary Carson does appear to have enough time on his calendar to make non-pandemic-related decisions that undermine fair housing protections and to attend non-pandemic-related events, but apparently not enough time to talk to this committee about how he is responding to the current national emergency,” Waters said.