Save the Date: Fannie, Freddie Smackdown Planned

A housing smackdown is coming to Capitol Hill.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has set March 2nd as the date for the first hearing on the future of housing finance. Though sweeping in scope, the review will surely center on the uncertain future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It won't be an easy ride for the embattled Fannie and Freddie. Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, recently declared that the two troubled mortgage giants should be wiped out and replaced, according to news outlets including Bloomberg News. Republicans, too, are calling for drastic changes.

The high-stakes hearings are likely to shape the role of the federal government in the housing market going forward. Considering that almost every home loan written today is guaranteed by Fannie, Freddie, or the Federal Housing Administration, Congress is about to decide nothing less than the future of housing.The agenda is broad, and will address all of the private and public entities that support the mortgage market, including the Federal Housing Administration, Ginnie Mae, Federal Home Loan Banks, and private lenders and securitizers. But Fannie and Freddie will no doubt be at the center of the discussion.

The two companies were owned by private shareholders until 2008; today they are 80 percent government- owned. The trillion-dollar organizations are now in a kind of limbo, and Wall Street is betting that the shareholders will be almost, but not quite, totally cleaned out: Fannie and Freddie stock has traded for about a dollar a share since 2008.

Frank has invited Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to present the Administration's perspective, as well as representatives of the advocacy community, academia, and industry to present their ideas on the future of housing finance.
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