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Obama Budget Projects FHA Will Avoid a Taxpayer Subsidy in 2014

MAR 4, 2014 1:35pm ET
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President Obama's fiscal-year 2015 budget projects the Federal Housing Administration won't require a taxpayer subsidy this year as the agency's efforts to shore up its finances have offset losses from defaulted loans.

The government mortgage insurer has been raising fees and tightening underwriting to pay for a wave of soured mortgages it backed as the housing bubble burst. Last year, the FHA required a $1.7 billion cash infusion from the Treasury, the first ever in its 80-year history. The agency must keep enough cash on hand to cover all projected future losses.

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to pass legislation that would give FHA more authority to crack down on bad lenders and require mortgage servicers to hire outside help if they have a poor track record of aiding delinquent borrowers, according to a White House budget proposal released today.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, FHA’s parent agency, "is pursuing a comprehensive legislative package which will give FHA the tools it needs to build upon the many administrative steps it has taken since 2009 to strengthen FHA single-family programs," the budget proposal said. "These items will allow FHA to enhance enforcement, create certainty for FHA approved lenders, and enhance loss mitigation opportunities for borrowers with FHA-approved loans."

An independent actuary, using a different formula than the White House budget writers, said in December that the FHA's insurance fund was still $1.3 billion short for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The FHA has until the end of the current fiscal year to make a final determination of whether it will require aid from the Treasury this year.

The agency insures $1.1 trillion worth of mortgages and backs about 17% of the U.S. loan originations for home purchases, more than quadruple the 4% share it covered in 2007, before the credit crisis. About 8% of FHA-insured loans were at least 90 days delinquent in October, down from 9.5% a year earlier. Loans unpaid for at least 90 days are considered likely to default.

The FHA's losses stem largely from loans it backed from 2007 to 2009, when it expanded its book of business as private capital evaporated.

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