Donald Trump’s government on Thursday unveiled a plan to privatize the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, under government control since they were rescued during the 2008 crisis.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold half of the mortgages in the United States through a system of guarantees with which they acquire loans from lenders and sell them with shares to investors.
That system, according to experts, makes it possible to generalize access to credit with products such as the popular 30-year fixed-interest mortgage.
In 2008, the two companies needed an injection of 187,000 million dollars from the government of then President George W. Bush to maintain their operations and thus avoid greater consequences to the mortgage crisis after risky investments.
Since then, the government has taken over the operations of both companies, making profits of up to $300 billion, but also making them the last big unresolved issue arising from the financial crisis.
While on the role Democrats and Republicans agree to end public control over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, former President Barack Obama (2009-2017) dodged the issue for fear of disrupting a recovering market.
Now, Trump wants to return these companies to private hands, although, according to plans revealed by the Treasury Department, they will continue to have public backing in the event of bankruptcy in exchange for a periodic payment.
“The time has come, after 11 years, to put an end to control. Ending that control is a fundamental step in reducing government influence” in the housing market, says the Treasury in its plan.
“Our opinion is that the government’s footprint has become too big,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
The government’s plan is that the privatization process, which does not require congressional approval, should be slow and gradual in order to minimize risks and should not affect access to mortgages, especially 30-year fixed-rate mortgages.
However, opponents of Trump’s plans argue that a privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will make mortgages more expensive and difficult to access, thus disrupting the housing market and generating big profits for Wall Street investors.
Senator Sherron Brown, the senior Democrat on the House Banking Committee, said Trump’s plan “will make mortgages more expensive and harder to obtain”.
“I urge the president: make it easier for workers to buy or rent their homes, don’t make it harder,” he added.
On the other hand, Obama’s housing consultant and former adviser, Jim Parrott, told the Journal that “investors will be much more demanding and will charge more for the loans in which they are willing to invest”.
“That doesn’t mean,” he added, “that we shouldn’t consider reducing the role of government, but we must be honest about its impact”.