WASHINGTON (5/2/13)--Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), President Barack Obama's nominee to serve as the next Federal Housing Finance Agency director, "has a strong understanding of financial services issues and has been willing to listen to credit unions and consider our issues throughout the years," Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney said Wednesday.
North Carolina Credit Union League President/CEO John Radebaugh congratulated Watt on his nomination, which was announced by Obama on Wednesday. "Through the years, credit union advocates in North Carolina have appreciated the opportunity to work with him on a variety of issues of importance to the movement. He's very qualified for the position and we wish him well through the confirmation process," Radebaugh said.
Watt has served in the U.S. Congress since 1992, and is a veteran member of the House Financial Services Committee. If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco, who has led that agency since Sept. 1, 2009.
Many in Congress have called for Obama to remove DeMarco and nominate a replacement. Obama in 2011 nominated former North Carolina bank commissioner Joseph Smith to serve as full-time director, but that nomination was not confirmed.
Demarco last year caused consternation for many in Congress when he objected to allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to pursue a broad principal forgiveness program for troubled homeowners. House Democrats in a February 2013 letter to Obama said the FHFA has been directed by Congress to maximize assistance for homeowners and minimize foreclosures. The agency has also been granted explicit authority to modify mortgage loans through loan principal reductions, the legislators wrote.
"Ensuring that FHFA implements congressional directives to support the most liquid, efficient, competitive, and resilient housing finance markets is a matter of national urgency," they added. They urged Obama "to nominate an FHFA director who is ready to fulfill this mission and address the many challenges still facing the nation's housing finance markets." Forty-five Democrats co-signed the letter.
A range of housing policy changes has been discussed by the U.S. House, the Senate, and the Obama administration in recent months, including full market privatization, limiting government market intervention, and several stops in between. (Use the resource links for News Now coverage of mortgage market reform efforts.)
Ensuring that credit union interests are represented in any reform of the housing finance system is one of CUNA's top 2013 legislative objectives. CUNA has repeatedly said that any changes to secondary mortgage market structure must allow credit unions and other small issuers to maintain full and unrestricted access to that market. CUNA has also highlighted the importance of preserving 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages and ensuring that the secondary market is strong enough to weather economic adversity.