Sule Aygoren Carranza is managing editor of Real Estate Forum.

WASHINGTON, DC-Despite the credit crisis and seeming lack of financing out there, outstanding multifamily mortgage debt has risen to a record level, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Overall, commercial and multifamily loans came in at $3.3 trillion in the fourth quarter, the most recent data available. That’s an increase of nearly $85 billion (or 2.6%) from the third quarter, and $356 billion, or 12%, from the end of 2006. Of that amount, apartment paper accounted for $831 billion, an increase of $28.2 billion (3.5%) over Q3, and $90 billion (12.2%) over the prior year.

Nearly 90% of that uptick was attributable to increases in the holdings of government-sponsored enterprises and Agency-and GSE-backed mortgage pools, as well as commercial banks, according to MBA’s senior director of commercial/multifamily research, Jamie Woodwell. “Both groups took advantage of capital market disruptions and the lack of CMBS competition to increase their holdings of commercial and multifamily mortgages,” he relates.

The biggest loan pools are found in commercial banks, which hold 42% of all commercial and multifamily debt, accounting for some $1.4 trillion. However, MBA notes that since many of those loans are secured by simple commercial property rather than income-producing assets, banks’ holdings are not comparable to those of other debt providers. Rounding out the top three are CMBS, CDO and other ABS issues, with $776.5 billion, or 24%, of real estate loans; and life insurance companies, which hold $299 billion, or 9%.

GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold $136 billion in loans that support the mortgage-backed securities they issue and an additional $148 billion “whole” loans in their own portfolios, also accounting for a 9% share of overall mortgages.

In fact, when considering solely multifamily debt, the GSEs and Ginnie Mae hold the largest share of mortgages, 34% of all outstanding apartment paper. They are followed by commercial banks with $167 billion, or 20%; CMBS, CDO and other ABS issuers with $124 billion, or 15%; savings institutions with $93 billion, or 11%; state and local governments with $67 billion, or 8%; and life insurance companies with $48 billion, or 6%.

GSEs upped their holdings by $21 billion, or 17%, quarter over quarter. In percentage terms, they saw the biggest increase in the amount of debt they hold. GSEs accounted for 76% of the overall increase in the amount of outstanding multifamily debt. Throughout the year, the amount of apartment debt held by the GSEs increased by $42 billion, or 40.2%, again the biggest uptick among all of the groups.

What’s more, delinquency rates for most investor groups were at record lows at year’s end. For the GSEs in particular, the delinquency rate at Fannie Mae in 2007 (.08% at 60-plus days delinquent) was equal to or lower than 10 of the previous 11 years, while Freddie Mac’s delinquency rate at the end of last year (.02%) was lower than 10 of the previous 11 years.