Housing finance reform bill coming by 2020: Crapo

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WASHINGTON — The Senate Banking Committee is planning to tackle legislative reform of the government-sponsored enterprises in the current congressional term, said Chairman Mike Crapo.

"We're going to be moving on to housing finance reform in this Congress and we're going to need your help,” Crapo said at a government affairs conference hosted by the Credit Union National Association.

It still remains to be seen whether lawmakers can strike a deal on GSE reform after the failure of previous legislative attempts. Crapo, an Idaho Republican, released a plan in February that recommended turning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into private guarantors, allowing other private guarantors to compete with the GSEs and positioning Ginnie Mae as a new government backstop. The current congressional term will last until the end of 2020.

“A major priority is addressing our broken housing finance, which is the last significant piece to be addressed since the financial crisis,” Crapo said during a speech Tuesday.

Crapo also pledged to preserve the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in any legislative solution. Some have expressed concerns that privatizing housing finance may eliminate or limit long-term mortgage options for consumers.

He noted that fixing the system has been “one of his priorities since 2013,” and that it was “unfortunate” that the issue “remains unsolved so many years later.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has signaled its intent to move sooner on changes to Fannie and Freddie that could be carried out under existing authority granted to the Treasury Department and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

“I would say that the administration is equally committed to dealing with housing finance reform this year," Crapo said.

Data security and privacy rules also remain a top priority for the committee, Crapo said. He also repeated criticism of the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans have long complained that the agency should be overseen by a committee, rather than a single director.

“While I’m encouraged of the actions that the CFPB has taken under Director [Kathy] Kraninger’s leadership, the structure of the CFPB is an issue that still needs to be addressed,” he said.

Crapo concluded his address by mentioning other items on the agenda, including the Terrorist Risk Insurance Act, the National Flood Insurance Program and plans to fix America’s transportation system.

“Our economy is strengthening,” he said. “Benefits of tax reform are starting to be felt” and “positive effects will be realized in many different ways in the year ahead.”

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GSEs GSE reform Housing finance reform Mike Crapo Senate Banking Committee CUNA