Obama Administration to Shut Down Fannie and Freddie

The Obama administration is working to attract more private funding for mortgage markets while winding down government-backed housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told reporters that administration officials are exploring legislative options for overhauling the nation’s housing finance system with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as well as with academics and other non-government agencies and advocacy groups.

In a white paper last February, the administration outlined three options for a long-term overhaul of the U.S. housing market. Each of those options proposed the elimination of Fannie and Freddie, though they differed on how or whether to replace the two agencies.

Congressional Republicans have also advocated shutting down the taxpayer-backed mortgage agencies, but on a faster timetable.

“We’re in a much earlier stage on housing reform” than with some other financial regulatory changes, said Geithner, though he add that, “What we’re going to try to do is lay the foundation for consensus.”

Geithner doesn’t expect a consensus any time soon. “It’s going to be a complicated process,” he said. “We don’t expect to legislate this year.”

The administration’s priority “is to repair the damage to homeowners, the housing market, and neighborhoods caused by the crisis,” Geithner said, referencing new measures posed by the president this week that would make it easier for struggling homeowners to refinance at record-low interest rates, thus reducing the size of their monthly mortgage payments.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Knapp at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com