Last week’s Quick Poll focused on news that Obama Administration is considering the overhaul of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that might include spinning the two off into a federal corporation. When asked if such a program is feasible, readers were split, with 54% voting that it would “spell disaster” and 46% said it is a good idea. Doug Bibby, president of the National Multi-Housing Committee, says whatever happens, the Administration needs to proceed with caution.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the lifeblood of the multifamily industry; without them the industry literally would be dead in the water. And so, any consideration of their future by the Administration and Congress, by definition, needs to be deliberate and inclusive of a variety of viewpoints and interests. The first tenet of any such exercise should be: First, do no harm. If an action is taken that disrupts the GSEs’ ability to support the single- and multifamily-mortgage markets with consistent and sufficient funding, especially during times of dislocations in the capital and credit markets, then the country and the economy will be adversely affected.

The best thing the Administration could do now would be to signal several issues. The conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie will continue past its stated deadline of Dec. 31, 2009 for as long as necessary to ensure that the GSEs are on the proper path to financial health [for one to be able to repay the government] and are in position to provide badly needed support to the mortgage markets. Any deliberation on the future of Fannie and Freddie will be thorough and inclusive of the many constituencies that they affect. With the determination of the GSEs’ future status, the federal government will not assume primary responsibility for running the US mortgage markets and instead will serve as a vital, important backstop to the private market, receiving a fair compensation for the times when taxpayers are asked to support the markets during periods of dislocation like the present.”

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