FHFA Director moves forward on housing finance reform

Calabria: We must grab this opportunity for reform.

Mark Calabria has officially taken office, having been confirmed as the new Federal Housing Finance Agency director by the Senate. The agency oversees Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and most US housing finance systems.

Calabria replaces Joseph Otting, Comptroller of the Currency, who was instructed to serve in the post by President Trump pending Calabria’s Senate confirmation.

Calabria was sworn in as director of the FHFA on Monday. After the Senate voted 52-44 to accept him as the FHFA director two weeks previously. Calabria was formerly chief economist for Vice President Mike Pence.

Calabria is a longstanding and outspoken supporter of housing finance reform.

While serving with Pence, he supported ending the mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And this was an emphasis in his swearing-in ceremony speech:

“I enter this office with a great sense of urgency. One I hope you share. The mortgage market was at the center of the last crisis, as it has been for many past financial crises in America and globally. I believe the foundations of our current mortgage finance system remain vulnerable,”

He continued, “After years of strong house price growth, too many remain locked out of housing, while others are dangerously leveraged. We must not let this opportunity for reform pass.”

Calabria supports President Trump’s statement that the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac be ended and that the US housing finance system should be reformed.   Calabria sees the recent Presidential Memo that laid out a strategy for reform as a positive step in the right direction and is looking forward to working closely with the Administration. 

Calabria has a long work history in and around the housing finance sector, which he is bringing into the role.

Under Vice President Pence, he took on a role at the Cato Institute and is known as a long-term advocate for reform in the US housing finance sector.

In the earlier years, Calabria was a  key player in drafting the Housing and Economic Recovery Act 2008 and held a position as a senior aide on the Senate Banking Committee. During President W Bush’s term in office, Calabria was Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he focused on regulation.

Before 2017, when he became chief economist for VP Pence, Calabria had held vital roles for the National Association of Realtors, Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, and the National Association of Home Builders. Now, he finally has a role in which he can influence the course of housing finance for the future.

Calabria’s stated aim is to build on the progress made by the FHFA since it was established in 2008. He aims to cement the gains he has watched develop from the outside and ensure they become locked into the system and not forgotten about simply because the housing crisis has abated.

Calabria is mindful of the impact of the last housing crises on ordinary people.

While recognizing the impact on the economy, his focus is on preventing the large number of foreclosures and the devastating effects this had on real families. Although he confesses to being a ‘numbers guy,’ he stresses the need to focus on the human impact when mortgage finance systems fail.

He emphasizes the positives, too, believing that the work of the FHFA plays a crucial role in ensuring the housing finance system works well. The ability of people to become homeowners and build equity helps them create a better future, the real meaning of the American Dream.

Calabria remains optimistic for the end of the US housing and mortgage markets because he sees the potential of building a much more robust and secure foundation for the housing market, which will benefit all Americans in the future.