FHFA Puts Finishes Touches on REO-to-Rental Program

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A the first phase of a plan from the FHFA to rent REO properties is nearing completion.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is putting the final finishing touches on its closely watched REO conversion program, according to FHFA official Meg Burns.

A plan to sell distressed Fannie Mae properties to investors, who will then rent the units out at affordable rates, the program has been one of the most closely watched housing policies of the Obama administration, and has been met with such overwhelming demand that the FHFA had to extend the program’s deadline. The agency fielded bids for properties in Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Florida, which are among the hardest-hit housing markets in the U.S.

Burns, who is the senior associate director for housing and regulatory policy at the FHFA, said a third-party review of all the bidder applications is nearing completion, and once that is complete, the agency plans on completing the first pilot transaction of the program in the next few months. According to a HousingWire piece on the topic, Burns made her comments on Monday before the House Committee on Financial Services.

Local economic growth was one of the main features of the program, and in their applications to the FHFA, investors were required to detail how their rental programs would rely on local and regional organizations to repair, lease and maintain the properties, thereby bettering the economic conditions of local residents.

In her comments, Burns spoke to the ripple effect of the program.

“There is an expectation that local construction and repair companies will be engaged due to their familiarity with state and local building codes,” Burns said. “That local property management firms will have knowledge of the potential tenant population in the area and the best means of marketing to these citizens, and that community-based nonprofits may provide supportive services to the residents.”

Economic projections for the program have been substantial. According to a recent analysis by CoreLogic, investors could net as much as $100 billion in income this year alone from the program, particularly in the Midwest and Florida, where REOs are the least expensive. All that money, though, will not just go to the investors. A separate study by Morgan Stanley estimated that more than a million one-time jobs could be created from the program’s initial phase, and that 800,000 would be permanent, long-term positions in maintenance and upkeep.

As HousingWire noted, Fannie Mae and its sister GSE, Freddie Mac, own about 180,000 REOs, and roughly half can be sold at any time.

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