The Department of Housing and Urban Development has program approval authority over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but has rarely denied them any new activities, assistant housing secretary John Weicher told the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. Mr. Weicher noted that the last time HUD turned down an application for a new GSE activity was in the early 1990s when Fannie Mae tried to launch a product "that seemed to go into the business of making advances" to seller/servicers. The granting of advances is a bread-and-butter activity of the Federal Home Loan Bank system. Mr. Weicher told policy makers that he usually hears word about a new GSE product "when I read about it in a press release." New program activity approval was an important issue in last year's debate over a GSE bill and is likely to be again as the House and Senate try to construct passable legislation. The assistant HUD secretary testified before the panel, highlighting Fannie and Freddie's inability to "lead the market" in affordable housing loans, citing figures published in the Bush Administration's 2006 budget.

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