Freddie Mac confirmed it’s considering ways to finance single-family rental properties, and said it would work with midsize organizations — a different approach than Fannie Mae has taken in this market.
Whereas Fannie securitized the mortgage (purchased from Wells Fargo) on a property portfolio run by an affiliate of the private equity giant Blackstone Group, Freddie would focus on helping community groups and local and regional financial institutions.
"We hope that that's where we can play, not with the biggest players," said Lisa Tibbitts, a spokeswoman for Freddie Mac.
The properties involved would serve consumers with special needs, such as homeless people transitioning into housing or people with mental or physical disabilities.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency has given both government-sponsored enterprises permission to do limited pilot projects in the single-family rental market, said Stefanie Johnson, an agency spokeswoman.
Lobbyists for the mortgage lending and real estate brokerage industries have expressed concern about competition from the single-family rental sector, and questioned how the GSEs would hand the new risk. The GSEs have responded to such concerns by noting that the choice to buy or rent is the consumer's.
"I think the perception is everybody wants to be a homeowner but that's not always true," Tibbitts said. "The idea is that we are helping to address the issue of affordable housing for low-income individuals and low-income families who can't afford or may not choose to purchase a home."
If even one midsize single-family landlord obtained cheaper financing through the GSEs, many low-income consumers would benefit from the cheaper rents, said Greg Rand, CEO of OwnAmerica.
"You could influence a lot of households" by making financing more affordable for one landlord, said Rand, whose Charlotte, N.C., firm sells a trading and analytics platform to such investors.