FHA Nears Need for Taxpayer Funds
The Federal Housing Administration is expected to report this week it could exhaust its reserves because of rising mortgage delinquencies, according to people familiar with the agency’s finances, a development that could result in the agency needing to draw on taxpayer funding for the first time in its 78-year history.
Such a report would likely set off a political fight over the government’s role in housing, as it raises the prospect of billions of dollars being added to the U.S. government’s effort to stabilize the hard-hit sector in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which already includes $137 billion spent to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac . Together with Fannie and Freddie, federal agencies are backing nearly nine in 10 new mortgages.
The New Deal-era FHA, which doesn’t actually make loans but instead insures lenders against losses, has played a critical role helping the housing market by backing mortgages of borrowers who make down payments of as little as 3.5%—loans that most private lenders won’t originate without a government guarantee. The FHA accounted for one third of loans used to purchase homes last year among owner occupants.