Statement: U.S. Senate’s Confirmation of Mark Calabria as New Director of Federal Housing Finance Agency

WASHINGTON Lindsey Johnson, President of U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI), today issued the following statement on the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Dr. Mark Calabria as the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director:

“USMI applauds the Senate’s confirmation of Director Mark Calabria to serve as the next FHFA Director. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the ‘GSEs’), the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks, market participants, and American homebuyers will be well-served under Director Calabria’s leadership at this critical time in the housing finance system.

“Director Calabria’s deep understanding of the mortgage finance system will be invaluable in promoting a more robust housing market that provides borrowers with access to affordable low down payment mortgage credit while simultaneously protecting taxpayers from undue mortgage credit risk. Director Calabria has long been an advocate for greater taxpayer protection against mortgage credit risk, including the use of private mortgage insurance (MI) to shield taxpayers and the federal government from financial risk on low down payment lending. We are confident that Director Calabria will continue to recognize the importance of private MI in the housing finance system.

“We look forward to working closely with Director Calabria to ensure that homebuyers continue to have affordable and prudent options for low down payment mortgage finance credit while also protecting taxpayers. For more than 60 years, private mortgage insurers have played a leading role in promoting affordable and sustainable homeownership and we look forward to building upon this important mission in the future.”


U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI) is dedicated to a housing finance system backed by private capital that enables access to housing finance for borrowers while protecting taxpayers. Mortgage insurance offers an effective way to make mortgage credit available to more people. USMI is ready to help build the future of homeownership. Learn more at

Newsletter: April 2019

It has been a busy week in Washington with renewed attention on housing finance reform in both Congress and the Administration. This week, the Senate Banking Committee (SBC) held two hearings on Chairman Mike Crapo’s (R-ID) Housing Reform Outline, where USMI President Lindsey Johnson appeared as an expert witness on the second day of hearings. Prior to testifying at the hearing, Johnson published a blog on the importance of private mortgage insurance (MI) to borrowers and taxpayers in any reformed housing finance system. On the other side of Capitol Hill, House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) announced the Committee’s hearings for the first two weeks of April, several of which will address affordable housing. On Pennsylvania Avenue, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum initiating housing reform in the housing finance system. There were also developments at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs). The FHA told lenders this month that it is tightening standards on government-backed mortgages due to concerns of increasingly risky loans, while the GSEs both appointed new chief executive officers.

  • USMI’s President testifies before the Senate Banking Committee. This week, the SBC held two hearings to discuss Chairman Crapo’s Housing Reform Outline. USMI President Lindsey Johnson testified before the committee on the second day of hearings, addressing the Chairman’s Outline and discussing the role private MI can play in a reformed housing finance system. USMI’s testimony specifically outlined the consistencies between Chairman Crapo’s Outline and USMI’s own principles, including ensuring access for creditworthy borrowers and all lenders, increasing transparency, and protecting taxpayers. Johnson also made several recommendations before the committee, chief among them that any proposal should rely on loan-level credit enhancement at origination done by entities that can manage mortgage credit risk through all market cycles.
  • During the hearing, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) brought up the issue of down payments and how Americans are in many cases unable to save enough to buy a home, and specifically asked what can be done about the problem and what are models out there for down payment assistance programs. Johnson answered Sen. Jones, saying, “We think that that is an enormous challenge; it’s specifically what our industry is focused on – is bridging that gap between an individual bringing 20 percent to the closing table and actually having access to the conventional market. And you think about the time that it takes for that individual to save that down payment, we’ve tracked that data and we’ve found that it takes two decades for a firefighter, a teacher in many areas to save that up. For minorities, we know that it’s even longer. So, we really have to make sure there are low down payment options available in the market.”

  • Following Johnson’s remarks, President Elect of the National Association of REALTORS® Vince Malta also noted the importance of MI, stating, “There are vehicles out there that can assist with lower down payment loans that are working very well in the marketplace, a combination of private capital through MI and sound underwriting standards. Those are the guides to homeownership.” The hearings demonstrated a near universal opposition to recapitalizing and releasing the GSEs, an action that Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) characterized as “recreat[ing] the old status quo and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Further, there was broad support among the witnesses for restructuring the GSEs as highly regulated utility-like entities to increase transparency, limit the GSEs’ activities to secondary market functions, and ensure that certain protections—such as equitable pricing for lenders of all sizes and types—are maintained.  The full list of witnesses and their testimonies can be found here.
  • USMI releases blog on importance of MI in the housing finance system. USMI President Lindsey Johnson published a blog this week ahead of the SBC hearings on Chairman Mike Crapo’s Housing Reform Outline that highlights the critical role private MI plays in housing finance reform, with particular emphasis on how private MI benefits homebuyers and protects taxpayers. The blog states that with the recent activity in the housing reform debate, now more than ever private MI will continue to play its invaluable role in providing access to credit and unparalleled taxpayer protection.
  • President Trump signs memorandum initiating reform of the housing finance system. On March 27, President Trump signed a memorandum calling for relevant agencies to develop a reform plan for the housing finance system. According to the memorandum, these reforms will seek to end the conservatorship of the GSEs and improve regulatory oversight over them, promote competition in the housing finance market, create a system that encourages sustainable homeownership, and protect taxpayers against bailouts. The Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson will be tasked with addressing their respective issues and are expected to submit reform plans as soon as practicable. In the fall of 2018, USMI released Areas of Alignment for Administrative Reformthat highlighted a number of specific steps the Administration can and should take before allowing the GSEs to build capital and be released from conservatorship.  A list of the 11 specific steps can be found here
  • House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman releases early April hearing schedule. HFSC Chairwoman Waters published the Committee’s calendar of hearings for the first two week of April, three of which will focus on housing. One of the hearings, entitled “The Fair Housing Act: Reviewing Efforts to Eliminate Discrimination and Promote Opportunity in Housing,” will be with the full committee. The other hearings, one entitled “The Affordable Housing Crisis in Rural America: Assessing the Federal Response” and another entitled “The Community Reinvestment Act: Assessing the Law’s Impact on Discrimination and Redlining,” will be with the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance and Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, respectively.
  • FHA tightens underwriting standards on government-backed mortgages. In an about-face for a 2016 decision, the FHA has decided to tighten its underwriting and lending standards due to concerns that it is allowing too many risky loans to be insured. The FHA has observed extensive risk layering in recent years and this action is intended to ensure the FHA’s financial stability for years to come. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FHA “told lenders this month it would begin flagging more loans as high risk. Those mortgages, many of which are extended to borrowers with low credit scores and high loan payments relative to their incomes, will now go through a more rigorous manual underwriting process…” The FHA stated in its letter that the “announcement comes after Federal Housing Commissioner Montgomery publicly stated numerous times in recent months that FHA must seek the right balance between managing risk and fulfilling its mission of supporting sustainable homeownership.”
  • Fannie and Freddie announce newly appointed CEOs. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have announced the appointments of their new CEOs following their individual six-month searches. Fannie Mae appointed as its CEO commercial mortgage executive Hugh Frater, who joined Fannie’s board of directors in 2016 and served as interim CEO for several months after Tim Mayopoulos stepped down in October 2018. Meanwhile, Freddie Mac’s board of directors named its current president David Brickman as its new CEO, succeeding Donald Layton, who will retire in July. Brickman was promoted to president in September 2018 and has been with Freddie Mac since 1999.

Letter: Coalition Letter in Support of the Nomination of Mark Calabria

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-230, U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC, 20510

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Minority Leader
United States Senate S-221, U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

The undersigned organizations, representing a wide range of perspectives in the housing and mortgage finance industry, write to strongly encourage the confirmation of Dr. Mark Calabria as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

A longtime public servant, Dr. Calabria is a respected expert in housing finance with detailed knowledge of the intricacies of the housing and mortgage finance markets. As one of the Congressional staffers who helped craft the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Dr. Calabria has demonstrated a keen understanding of the critical role of the FHFA as both regulator and conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the “Enterprises”). Additionally, through his experience as a staffer on the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and at the National Association of REALTORS®, National Association of Home Builders, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Calabria understands the need for FHFA to be transparent and methodical in its development and enforcement of policies.

The FHFA has an incredibly important mission of ensuring for a liquid and robust mortgage market, while regulating the Enterprises and their $5.4 trillion in mortgage credit risk, along with the Federal Home Loan Bank system.1 It is critical for the Senate to proceed expeditiously to confirm a permanent Director at the FHFA in order to best promote an efficient national secondary mortgage market that facilitates access to affordable mortgage financing for all creditworthy borrowers during all market conditions. Dr. Calabria recognizes the need to balance this mission with the protection of taxpayers from mortgage credit risk while avoiding market disruptions when improving and implementing policy. Any new Director should also maintain increased transparency with essential public feedback to guarantee that any potential changes are in the best interests of consumers, the supporting industries, and the overall economy.

Dr. Calabria has a deep understanding of the secondary mortgage market and the complex policy issues that affect the entities the FHFA oversees. Dr. Calabria’s decades of experience in the public and private sectors have prepared him to execute the duties of Director and address the agency’s mission and significant regulatory priorities.

We respectfully request the swift confirmation of Dr. Calabria as Director of the FHFA to protect and ensure the continuation of a strong real estate market and overall economy.


American Academy of Housing and Communities
American Land Title Association (ALTA)
The Commercial Real Estate Finance Council (CREFC)
Community Associations Institute
Consumer Mortgage Coalition
Leading Builders of America
Make Room
Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) Manufactured Housing Institute
Mortgage Bankers Association
National Affordable Housing Management Association
The National Apartment Association
National Association of Home Builders
The National Association of Housing Cooperatives
National Association of REALTORS®
National Council of State Housing Agencies
National Leased Housing Association
National Multifamily Housing Council
The Real Estate Roundtable
Real Estate Services Providers Council, Inc. (RESPRO)
The Realty Alliance
U.S. Mortgage Insurers

cc: United States Senate

For a full PDF of this letter click here.