The FHA's reserve fund could be a black hole for U.S. taxpayers

As mortgages continue to sour, the Federal Housing Administration's reserve fund continues to deteriorate. That's not a big surprise. What might be a surprise is the fact that the FHA can get bailout money from the U.S. Treasury without seeking approval from Congress.

An automatic FHA bailout is part of the 1990 law under which the FHA turns over to the Treasury any excess money the agency collects in insurance premiums after it pays out its losses. This excess money goes into an FHA emergency reserve fund. Whenever the FHA needs money, it can draw from the reserve fund. The surprising thing is that there is no limit on the amount that can be withdrawn from the the reserve fund. All FHA loans are backed by the full faith and credit of the government, so if the FHA needs more than the amount of funds in the emergency reserve, it gets it, without the need for Congressional approval.