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WASHINGTON, DC-Enlisting TARP funds to purchase Fannie Mae-backed and Freddie Mac-backed MBS from lenders’ books and the creation of a market for ten-year GSE debt will be two major initiatives for which National Multifamily Housing Council will begin lobbying sometime in the next two weeks.

Up until now several other industry associations–the Real Estate Roundtable, the National Association of Realtors and the Mortgage Bankers Association, to name a few–have formally lobbied Congress for assistance. Now, the NMHC is prepping for its own road show to Capitol Hill, president Doug Bibby tells GlobeSt.com. It will be making its case for these and other initiatives both publicly and privately to law-makers, Bibby says.

Enhancing liquidity in the multifamily sector is the immediate goal of both of these proposals, he says. The overload of MBS that multifamily lenders have on their books is a major reason why private sector liquidity has become constrained in [multifamily], he says. “There is no market for those securities right now. Our goal would be to have Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank buy these assets in significant enough volumes to make a market for them and to add liquidity to lenders’ books.”

The other initiative–the creation of a ten-year debt market–would address Fannie and Freddie’s inability to issue intermediate debt in the current market, he continues. “They have been restricted to issuing short term debt such as 90-day paper and then rolling that over, which in this market is a mismatch made in hell.”

Bibby says both maneuvers would fall under TARP’s mandate, which still has $350 billion to spend. Approaching Congress, though, will take some delicacy, he adds. “We have to be mindful of all the other demands and requests on this money.” Indeed, even within the commercial real estate industry, there are competing needs for TARP funds. Still, though, the multifamily sector–while healthier, relatively speaking, compared to other asset classes–is nearing its own financial crisis, Bibby says.

At face value that may be hard to see: the GSEs have kept up lending to multifamily borrowers even though they have been placed in conservatorship. However one of the requirements made by the government when the GSEs were taken under direct federal control was that they begin trimming their portfolios starting in January 2010.

To make its case the NMHC just released the findings of a new policy paper issued by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, which NMHC commissioned. The paper, “Meeting Multifamily Housing Finance Needs During and After the Credit Crisis,” finds that when the GSEs begin scaling back to meet this requirement the multifamily sector will bear a disproportionate burden, compared to single-family loans. That is because single-family loans are more easily securitized, while the GSEs tend to hold multifamily loans as investments. A substitute liquidity backstop will be necessary to maintain balance.

These findings will no doubt alarm an already jittery industry; GSE financing has been the salvation of the multifamily asset class. But the point of this study, Bibby says, is to make sure that policy-makers do not assume multifamily housing will be able to remain afloat without this level of support.

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