As NMHC/NAA predicted, the issue of GSE reform will be the subject of many hearings in this Congress. Three hearings have been held already in the House, and on March 15, the Senate Banking Committee held its first hearing. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan were the only witnesses at the session, which focused on the Obama Administration's blueprint for winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
As was the case in the House hearings, multifamily played a prominent role in the discussions. During his opening remarks and in response to specific questions from Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (R-SD), Secretary Donovan noted the importance of ensuring that any future system support rental housing, noting that "the GSEs were able to support this market segment without the losses that occurred on the single-family side. As we move forward, we must ensure that the infrastructure and capacity they built in this critical area remains."
He went on to explain that "having a targeted guarantee as we do through FHA to multifamily housing has been a significant contributor to improving the provision and the building of multifamily housing, but also the affordability of that housing over time."
The need for a more balanced housing policy was also discussed, with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) saying that "looking back, it should have been more obvious to us that we-the nation, Congress, regulators-were obsessed with homeownership" with rental housing a far distant second. "Our goal should be providing people the options so they can choose the best form of housing for their family, their proximity to work, their lifestyle."