Its nearly 18 months since the US government nationalised the 2 home loan giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, at the start of the September 2008 financial crisis.
Today, their current obligations amount to $3.7trn – larger that the total UK economy. And the Wall Street Journal notes that their cumulative losses on home loans had reached $291bn by the end of 2009.
Yet even this support for the housing market has not been able to reverse the tide of foreclosure. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 4.5% of all US homes were in foreclosure in Q3, the highest percentage ever seen. 1 in 10 mortgages was at least one payment overdue. And 4.5m homes were worth less than 75% of the mortgage value.
A further worrying trend is the rapid rise in bank-owned homes for sale. These do not appear in the figures reported by the National Association of Realtors, as no realtor is involved. Equally, no accurate figures are available on the size of this ‘shadow market’, although the Financial Times estimates it is now larger that the ‘official’ market.
Tellingly, the Obama administration missed its own deadline for revealing its future plans for Fannie and Freddie on Monday. Instead, it made a one-line statement that “The administration continues to monitor the situation closely and will continue to provide updates on considerations for longer-term reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as appropriate.” Whilst an assistant Treasury secretary noted that “we haven’t yet found a way of dealing with this (housing issue) that would be practical on a large scale.”