Statement: Confirmation of Deputy HUD Secretary Pam Patenaude

WASHINGTON Lindsey Johnson, President and Executive Director of the U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI), today issued the following statement on the confirmation of Pam Patenaude to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):

“USMI applauds the Senate for its confirmation of Pam Patenaude to be Deputy Secretary of HUD. As a longtime public servant and expert in the housing finance system, Deputy Secretary Patenaude fully understands the need for a coordinated, consistent, and transparent approach to federal housing policy across government channels.

“Deputy Secretary Patenaude’s extensive background in housing finance will allow her to immediately begin work on the most important issues facing the housing finance system. Importantly, Deputy Secretary Patenaude’s leadership in these efforts will ensure that Americans have greater access to mortgage finance credit, promote a greater role for increased private capital in mortgage finance, and reduce taxpayer risk exposure. USMI and the private mortgage insurance industry look forward to working with Deputy Secretary Patenaude going forward to establish a more equitable and robust housing finance system.”


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

Letter: USMI Joins Coalition in Support of Full Senate Vote on Pam Patenaude

USMI joined nearly 60 other organizations in supporting a full Senate vote on the nomination of Pam Patenaude as HUD Deputy Secretary. Click below to read the full coalition letter. Click here to download the letter as a PDF.

Newsletter: April 2017

Here is a roundup of recent news in the housing finance industry. USMI’s Lindsey Johnson interviews USMI Board Chairman Patrick Sinks on the 60th anniversary of the private mortgage insurance (MI) industry. Additionally, a recent congressional bill aimed at promoting greater transparency at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs) was passed by the House of Representatives, President Trump announced his nomination for Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released a new report on reform recommendations for the GSEs and housing finance system.

  • Private Mortgage Insurance Industry Turns 60. This week, USMI published a Q&A between USMI President and Executive Director Lindsey Johnson and USMI Chairman and Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. (MGIC) CEO Patrick Sinks. In their discussion, Johnson and Sinks discuss the past, present, and future of the MI industry, and how MI has helped people affordably become homeowners for 60 years.
  • House Bill Aims to Open GSE Records to FOIA. This week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1694, the Fannie and Freddie Open Records Act of 2017, by a unanimous vote. H.R. 1694, introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), would mandate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to accept and process Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the public, and release information to satisfy FOIA requests as long as they remain under federal conservatorship.
  • President Trump Announces Deputy Secretary of HUD Nomination. Today, President Trump announced the nomination of Pamela Patenaude to be Deputy Secretary of HUD. Patenaude is currently the President of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for America’s Families and previously served as Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission. USMI issued the following statement on Patenaude’s nomination:“Pam Patenaude is a strong choice to serve as Deputy Secretary for HUD. Throughout her career, she has been a proven leader on housing issues and will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the agency. USMI looks forward to working with Pam on the important issues facing the housing finance industry.”
  • MBA Releases New Report on Reform Recommendations for GSEs and Housing Finance System. This week, MBA released a report outlining its recommendations to reform the GSEs and the housing finance system. The report covers many areas such as the value of loan-level credit enhancement and the benefit of private MI, as well as promotes greater use of front-end credit risk sharing including through private MI. The report also recognizes the important functions of private market participants and reinforces that there should be a bright line between the functions of private market participants in the primary market and those of secondary market participants. In a statement on the report,  USMI President Lindsey Johnson said:“USMI is pleased to see MBA and other industry, trade and consumer groups provide ideas and proposals for how to reform the housing finance system and we look forward to continuing to work with MBA and others to promote reforms to the housing finance system to put more private capital in front of taxpayer risk and to create a more sustainable housing finance system that works for market participants, taxpayers and consumers. For 60 years, MI has provided effective credit risk protection for our nation’s mortgage finance system. This time-tested form of private capital should be the preferred method of absorbing credit loss in front of any government guaranty, helping to minimize taxpayer risk while ensuring mortgage credit remains accessible.”

Newsletter: March 2017

Here is a roundup of recent news in the housing finance industry, including the unveiling of USMI’s new logo to commemorate 60 years of making homeownership possible through private mortgage insurance and housing policy developments in Congress and in the executive branch.

  • The private mortgage insurance industry turns 60. USMI unveiled its new logo to commemorate 60 years of private mortgage insurance (MI) making homeownership possible for millions of Americans. Since 1957, private MI has served as a reliable and affordable method of expanding homeownership, while simultaneously protecting American taxpayers and the government from exposure to mortgage credit risk. Stay tuned for more activities!
  • USMI and others send letter to Congress on g-fees. Scotsman Guide reported on a letter sent by USMI and 13 other industry trade groups to Reps. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) on a bill they introduced to ensure that guarantee fees (g-fees) charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the “GSEs”) are used solely to insure against the credit risk of home mortgages. In 2016, the mortgage finance industry successfully fought off a legislative proposal to use g-fees collected by the GSEs to fund highway projects. The letter reads: “G-fees are a critical risk management tool used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to protect against losses from loans that default. Increasing g-fees for other purposes imposes an unjustified burden on homeowners who would pay for any increase through higher monthly payments for the life of their loan. … whenever Congress has considered using g-fees to cover the cost of programs unrelated to housing, we’ve informed lawmakers that homeownership cannot, and must not, be used as the nation’s piggybank. By preventing g-fees from being scored as a funding offset, H.R. 916 gives lawmakers a vital tool to prevent homeowners from footing the bill for unrelated spending. We are grateful to you for introducing this bipartisan legislation and urge its consideration by the House.”
  • Carson confirmed as HUD Secretary. On March 2, Dr. Ben Carson was confirmed as the new Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). USMI released a statement congratulating Secretary Carson on his confirmation and welcoming the opportunity to work with the Secretary and his team to promote a stronger and more equitable mortgage finance system, as well as an expanded role for private capital.
  • Investopedia has good video explaining MI. USMI’s website features a new video courtesy of Investopedia to help people better understand what private MI is and how it helps people who cannot afford a 20 percent down payment to buy a home. To watch the video, click here.

Blog: What HUD’s Suspension of FHA MIP Rate Cut Really Means

On Friday, January 20, 2017, the new Administration’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) suspended a January 9 announcement by the outgoing Obama Administration’s HUD and its Federal Housing Administration (FHA) regarding a planned reduction in FHA mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) for borrowers. (Note: the FHA is a 100% government-backed mortgage insurance program that, just like private mortgage insurance, guarantees mortgage lenders against default risk particularly for home loans originated with low down payments.)

The FHA MIP reduction was to take effect on January 27. Given the haste of this announcement, the incoming Trump Administration at HUD suspended this decision as to provide incoming officials sufficient time to better understand the potential impact—good and bad—such a reduction would have on the market.

There have been a number of reports and opinions shared on the recent suspension—and not all of them accurate. Below are additional facts and information on the decision to suspend the not-yet implemented premium reduction.  We hope you find it helpful. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any follow up questions. Feel free to email us at

1. HUD’s decision does not raise the cost of homeownership in any way. The proposed FHA MIP reduction was announced by outgoing Obama HUD officials on January 9 and was scheduled to take effect on January 27. This proposed 25 basis points (bps) reduction has been suspended and, therefore, means there is no change to FHA premiums for new mortgage originations or refinances FHA mortgages. Since FHA premiums remain the same, the costs of an FHA-backed mortgage do not increase at all.

While some have been quick to criticize HUD’s recent action with politically-charged rhetoric, this is not a political or partisan issue. As noted in a January 24 Washington Post editorial, “the Obama administration itself increased this [FHA] fee four times between 2010 and 2013” before lowering the fee by 50 bps in 2015. The Washington Post goes on to say, “given recent financial instability—both at FHA and in housing generally—the new administration was perfectly justified in undoing it.”

2. With or without an FHA-insured option, there is wide availability today of low down payment mortgages backed by private mortgage insurance. Homebuyers have options; this includes low down payment mortgages with private mortgage insurance (MI). Unlike FHA-backed mortgages, the risk contained in loans guaranteed by private MI is not 100% exposed to the government and taxpayers. Private mortgage insurers put their own capital ahead of taxpayers to back mortgages that help homebuyers qualify for mortgage financing despite a low down payment or imperfect credit.

3. When comparing apples to apples, a low down payment mortgage backed by private MI is a better deal for homebuyers compared to FHA. First, cash for a down payment can be less for a private MI conventional mortgage compared to an FHA loan. Second, private MI can be cancelled thus lowering the monthly bill while FHA premiums generally must be paid for the full life of the mortgage.

In contrast to FHA insurance, private MI can be cancelled once borrowers have established 20% equity (through payments or home price appreciation). Ninety percent of borrowers cancel their private mortgage insurance within the first 60 months (five years). Why pay FHA insurance for another 25 years on a 30-year mortgage if it’s not necessary? The savings over time are significant.

The minimum down payment for FHA is 3.5% while a conventional private MI-backed mortgage can be originated with as little as 3% down. On a $234,900 home purchase (national median in December 2016), with a 4.25% interest rate for conventional and 4% for FHA, the FHA loan requires $1,175 more for down payment than the private MI loan. This goes to show that even with a higher interest rate the conventional loan still may be a better deal.

4. Experts (see below) point out that the FHA was stretched to the brink for nearly a decade, through the financial crisis, ultimately requiring a $1.7 billion taxpayer bailout. These experts argue that the capital levels required of FHA to shield taxpayers against losses, which is a thin 2% to begin with and has been underwater for several years, should not be thinned-out so quickly after it’s been restored back to health.

  • Housing policy experts at the Urban Institute debunk some of the quick claims about the negative impact of this HUD action. In a new blog they state: “A close look at the planned price reduction, however, reveals that the impact on the market would have been small and retaining the current price to help shore up FHA funds for a rainy day is a more prudent choice.” They also caution that the new lending volume at FHA would not come from unserved borrowers or homebuyers left on the sidelines, but instead borrowers already served by the low down payment conventional market.
  • On the opposite side of the political spectrum, scholars at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) agree with Urban Institute on the forestalled FHA premium reduction. AEI scholars note that the last time FHA cut fees in 2015 it did not result in serving a new, previously unserved universe of homebuyers. AEI found, “almost half of these buyers— attracted by FHA’s lower monthly payments—were poached from other government agencies, mainly Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. We also estimate that another third of the 180,000 buyers would have entered the market regardless of the lower premium, because an improving economy was raising incomes and lowering unemployment across the nation.”

5. Given privately insured mortgages are widely available and therefore homebuyers have options beyond FHA, the government program does not need to potentially increase risks to the American taxpayers. Below is a statement by Lindsey Johnson, USMI President and Executive director.

“HUD’s action allows the incoming Administration appropriate time to begin its work and to determine if an FHA mortgage insurance premium reduction is needed, and how it might expose taxpayers to undue risk. Given the wide availability of MI-backed low down payment mortgages and the fact that private MI is a better deal for borrowers over FHA since it can be cancelled, which in turn lowers monthly payments while FHA insurance must be paid for the life of the loan, there is no need for FHA to undercut the private market. While the FHA serves an important role in the housing market, it has expanded its footprint dramatically since the financial crisis and should instead remain focused on its core mission of serving underserved borrowers. USMI has and will continue to work with policymakers and housing officials to establish a more coordinated housing policy that will ensure broad access to low down payment lending while reducing the government’s footprint in housing and protecting taxpayers.”

Statement: FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium Reduction

WASHINGTON The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced today it will reduce its mortgage insurance premiums (MIPs) by 25 basis points. In November 2016, a HUD official stated there would be no additional MIPs cuts following its annual report to Congress on the financial status of its Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMIF), which showed it had finally reached its required capital levels after nearly a decade of severe stress. The following statement can be attributed to Lindsey Johnson, USMI President and Executive Director:

“While the MMIF is making needed improvements to its financial health, now is the time to establish a more coordinated housing policy to ensure broad access to low down payment lending while reducing the government’s footprint in housing and protecting taxpayers. Arbitrary reductions to the FHA’s MIP is bad policy because it pulls borrowers who would otherwise be served by the conventional Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac market, which is backed by private mortgage insurance for first losses versus the taxpayer. Taxpayers are currently exposed to $1.3 trillion in mortgage risk outstanding at FHA. As a result, and unless Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make commensurate fee adjustments to reflect the FHA decision, the government will likely assume increased amounts of mortgage credit risk.

“We agree with views of past FHA commissioners who contend private capital should play a leading role in guaranteeing low down payment mortgage credit risk so the government and taxpayer don’t have to. Given the wide availability of MI-backed mortgages, the FHA does not need to undercut private capital. USMI continues to believe that FHA serves a very important role, but it has expanded its footprint dramatically since the financial crisis and should instead remain focused on its core mission of serving underserved borrowers. FHA and the GSEs should be much more coordinated to promote broad sustainable homeownership.

“The last time FHA reduced its premiums in 2015, the move resulted in a high volume of FHA loan refinancing versus new mortgage origination, in essence maintaining the same borrowers and home loans while collecting less in insurance premiums. In other words, the same FHA mortgage credit risk but with less protection. This will result in a less financially resilient FHA and increased risk for taxpayers.”

For the consumer, private MI offers distinct advantages over FHA mortgage insurance. For instance, unlike FHA, private MI can be cancelled once approximately 20 percent equity is achieved either through payment or home price appreciation. This step immediately lowers the monthly mortgage for the homeowner.

Private mortgage insurers, who put their own capital at risk to mitigate mortgage credit risk, provided over $50 billion in credit risk protection since the financial crisis to the GSEs and did not take any taxpayer bailout. The market has been strengthened since the financial crisis as all MIs have all implemented significant new capital requirements, or the Private Mortgage Insurer Eligibility Requirements (PMIERs), which are stress-tested financial and capital requirements established by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, enhancing MI’s ability to assume mortgage credit risk 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: December 2019

Here is a roundup of news surrounding recent developments in President-elect Donald Trump’s housing policy, key legislative proposals and also reports on the benefits of front-end credit risk sharing with deep cover mortgage insurance, and a new USMI blog post on unnecessary upfront risk fees (loan-level price adjustments) imposed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:

  • Nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Announced. Earlier this week, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Dr. Ben Carson as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • GSE Credit Risk Transfer Legislation Introduced in Congress. HousingWire and American Banker report that on December 8 Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives that would require the GSEs to offload more credit risk onto the private sector. The Taxpayer Protections and Market Access for Mortgage Finance Act of 2016 (H.R. 6487) seeks to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) to transfer more credit risk through front-end credit risk transfer (CRT) transactions to mitigate losses and risks to taxpayers and the federal government. In addition to other provisions, H.R. 6487 calls for a five-year pilot program to increase the amount of risk transferred away from the government before it reaches the GSEs’ balance sheets by using front-end CRT with private mortgage insurance (MI). This front-end MI-based CRT method is consistent with recommendations to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) from USMI and others, and builds upon the current, effective use of private mortgage insurance in the GSE system that has been in practice for decades.
  • Treasury Secretary Nominee Calls for GSEs to Exit Conservatorship. In recent comments, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, called for the GSEs to exit conservatorship, adding that government ownership of the companies displaces private capital in the housing finance system and that the Trump administration “will get it done reasonably fast.” President-elect Trump’s transition team noted that the need to structurally reform the GSEs has bipartisan agreement.
  • Housing Expert Extols Benefits of Front-End Credit Risk Transfer and Deeper Cover Mortgage Insurance. In a recent article, Faith Schwartz, a housing finance policy expert who has worked extensively with the federal government in the US housing market, wrote on the benefits of front-end credit risk transfer (CRT), including through the use of deeper cover mortgage insurance (MI). Schwartz notes that front-end CRT and deeper cover MI allow for greater transparency, more options in a counter-cyclical volatile market, inclusive institutional partners and borrower process, and allows the GSEs to reach their goals in de-risking their credit guarantee. Schwartz concludes her article by saying: “In summary, whether it is recourse to a lending institution or participation in the front-end MI cost structure, pricing this risk at origination will continue to bring forward price discovery and transparency. This means the consumer and lender will be closer to the true credit costs of origination. With experience pricing and executing on CRT, it may become clearer where the differential cost of credit lies. The additional impact of driving more front-end CRT will be scalability and less process on the back-end for the GSE’s. By leveraging the front-end model, GSE’s will reach more borrowers and utilize a wider array of lending partners through this process.”
  • Consumer and Civil Rights Groups Raise Concerns about LLPAs. The MReport writes that 21 groups sent a letter to FHFA Director Mel Watt and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on December 8 “expressing concern that too many creditworthy low- and moderate-income borrowers are being denied access to mortgage credit.” These groups state that “The increase in the Enterprises’ guarantee fees and risk-based pricing (LLPAs) has had a number of effects to varying degrees that some predicted, including more banks are holding fixed-rate loans on portfolio, more financing of lower-credit score borrowers by the Federal Housing Administration, and fewer originations to the underserved overall.”
  • ICYMI: Lindsey Johnson writes on Loan-Level Price Adjustments (LLPAs). In a new blog post, USMI President Lindsey Johnson highlights the need for the reduction or elimination of upfront risk fees (LLPAs) based on a borrower’s credit score and down payment. In the blog, Johnson explains how this risk is already protected by private mortgage insurance, paid for by the homeowner. LLPAs, which were put in place in 2008, are increasingly unnecessary following the enactment of stronger underwriting standards for privately insured mortgages and in essence double charge a borrower for the same risk. Johnson encourages the FHFA and the GSEs to continue to work to manage risk, however LLPAs have become arbitrary fees that make homeownership more expensive or puts homeownership out of reach for many middle and lower income homebuyers. USMI was part of a group of 25 organizations that wrote a letter to FHFA Director Mel Watt in June calling for FHFA and the GSEs to reduce to eliminate LLPAs.