Magazine article Mortgage Banking

On the Road Again

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

On the Road Again

Article excerpt

WE CAUGHT UP WITH DAVE STEVENS at his desk during a brief interlude before he hit the road. It was a tiny window in between the National Advocacy Conference held every year by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) in Washington, D.C., and a trip to New York City for the MBA National Secondary Market Conference.

We got 30 minutes of his time on May 1, and we were celebrating (believe me). Actually, we got about 23.5 minutes of his time--the rest he spent scanning emails and websites for breaking news. But we're not complaining, mind you, just saying.

It was a day when secondary market stuff was rapidly hitting the wire. President Obama had just announced his nominee for replacing the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt (with a law degree from Yale) got the nod from the White House to replace FHFA Acting Director Ed DeMarco.

Watt's nomination will have to win Senate confirmation, which is certainly no guarantee in the current legislative environment. Some senators on the Senate Banking Committee had already voiced disappointment over the choice.

But assuming he does win the needed votes in the Senate, he would take the helm at FHFA at a crucial time.

"He's got a huge job on his hands," Stevens, MBA's president and chief executive officer, says. "The next five years are important years for FHFA and will be the most important that the agency has faced in its history. It will determine the role of government in housing finance."

Stevens added, "Having a director who can guide a transition to a functioning, long-term, effective secondary market is obviously a top priority concern for us and for me."

Meanwhile, the current acting director of the FHFA already knows he has a very tough job--and he's not getting much love.

A crowd of activists protested outside DeMarco's home on Sunday, April 21. They were demanding that he be replaced by someone who supports principal reduction.

There's nothing quite like housing policy by mob rule.

Back on saner ground, MBA's advocacy conference this year attracted 350 members who were briefed on current commercial and residential legislative and regulatory issues. Stevens says MBA members met with senior officials and lawmakers on both Capitol Hill and in the agencies.

But only a few got to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Stevens personally led a group over to a meeting at the White House that included companies hand-selected to represent every type of business model in the industry today. He says there were independent mortgage banks, commercial bank originators, mortgage real estate investment trusts (REITs), builder-owned originators, consumer-direct platforms and community banks.

What came up at the meeting? Stevens says a range of topics, including the issue of constrained access to mortgage credit and the need for more regulatory certainty for mortgage lenders. Lenders also talked about the enormous change-management challenges they are facing due to a batch of new rules all becoming effective in relatively short order.

Stevens says the conversation also included ways to expand the current refinancing market. He says he is confident that a "new form of the [Senator Barbara] Boxer legislation will be introduced in the Senate. …

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