Meeting the Challenges of 2020
In 2020, our nation felt the devastating impact of a global health pandemic. Seemingly overnight, homes became offices, schools, daycares, and more. As COVID-19 case numbers rose and businesses shut down, millions endured job losses, income reduction, illness, and other consequences of the pandemic. Unemployment rates reached record highs, and homeowners and renters struggled to make timely mortgage and rent payments. The pandemic brought into sharp focus the health, economic, and civil rights disparities exacerbated by systemic racism, creating a pivotal turning point in our country’s racial reckoning, reflection, and action. More than ever, people needed access to safe, decent, affordable housing.
By our charter and our choice, Fannie Mae’s mission is to provide stability and funding to the housing and mortgage market in good times and tough times. The challenges of 2020 helped clarify our priorities: support our lenders and their borrowers and renters, help keep people in their homes, stabilize the housing market, and strengthen housing security through and beyond the crisis. Fannie Mae leaned into the housing challenges of the pandemic and put people first ― safeguarding the health and well-being of employees so they could continue to help ensure that the nation’s mortgage and housing markets were open for business. The commitment of our 7,500 employees to support the people we serve and to provide a solid foundation for the housing market prepared us for this vital work. Despite personal disruptions and uncertainty, our people remained focused on our mission at a time when the country needed it most.
The commitment of our 7,500 employees to support the people we serve and to provide a solid foundation for the housing market prepared us for this vital work.
With guidance from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Fannie Mae has taken steps from the early days of the COVID-19 emergency to halt foreclosures, provide relief to homeowners struggling to make mortgage payments, and stop evictions for non-payment of rent. The enterprises developed new solutions and provided servicers with tools, information, and guidance to make forbearance plans and repayment options easily accessible to borrowers. In February 2020, roughly 6,000 Fannie Mae single-family home borrowers — out of 17 million total — were in an active forbearance plan. By May 2020, that number surpassed 1 million. The years since 2008 prepared Fannie Mae to meet the challenges of the current crisis. Leveraging ready-to-use loss mitigation solutions defined and vetted through existing policy allowed us to serve more people faster.
Providing relief on multiple fronts was imperative to help the multifamily residents facing challenges during the pandemic. Starting in March 2020, before the passage of the CARES Act, we allowed multifamily lenders to grant forbearance to borrowers of Fannie Mae-financed multifamily properties if they experienced a COVID-19 financial hardship. In exchange, the borrowers committed to provide tenant protections, including rent repayment flexibility and suspended evictions for non-payment of rent. We aligned our forbearance program with the CARES Act once it was enacted and have since further enhanced our forbearance program with additional tenant protections and notification requirements, including continuing the 30-day notice to vacate to impacted tenants. As of December 31, 2020, based on unpaid principal balance, 1.4% of our Multifamily Book of Business received a COVID-19-related forbearance plan.
To ensure lenders, servicers, borrowers, renters, and property managers had the latest information on policy updates and relief options, we launched our largest direct-to-consumer marketing effort, the Here to Help campaign. Our outreach efforts highlighted relief options, provided helpful tools and resources, and communicated the latest, most accurate market information ― empowering people to take informed action. Almost 3.5 million people visited our updated KnowYourOptions.com site, and about 14,000 consumers took advantage of counseling sessions through the Disaster Response Network during 2020.
While we supported servicers, borrowers, and renters, we also acted as a stabilizing force to help keep the mortgage market open. As other investors pulled away from the mortgage-backed securities market, we stepped in and purchased mortgages from lenders, providing a critical source of market liquidity. We sustained securities transactions activity despite market conditions, prioritizing market stability over returns. Homeowners took advantage of historically low mortgage rates, and Fannie Mae was there to support lenders by purchasing a record number of refinance mortgage loans. As a result, we acquired $1.4 trillion in single-family and multifamily loans in 2020, providing the largest amount of liquidity to the mortgage market for any year in Fannie Mae’s history.
We acquired $1.4 trillion in single-family and multifamily loans in 2020.
In the summer of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data that revealed racial and ethnic minority groups were disproportionately affected by COVID-19, bringing to light longstanding systemic health and social inequities. The world also witnessed the death of George Floyd, which triggered civil unrest and served as another reminder of the stark reality for millions in this country — particularly Black people and other people of color. The focus on existing disparities has been amplified, and our nation is acknowledging racially discriminatory policies like redlining that have denied Black people access to neighborhoods with quality jobs, schools, and health care. The lack of affordable housing in areas with economic opportunity continues to aggravate systemic racial inequalities, with health and financial challenges falling disproportionately on people of color.
Our commitment to helping more people access safe, healthy, sustainable, and affordable housing existed before the pandemic and will continue to be a priority through this crisis and beyond. Fannie Mae has reaffirmed our dedication to help increase sustainable and affordable housing supply, provide education on renting and homeownership to keep more people in their homes, close the racial housing gap, and advance systemic racial equity within the housing industry. Responsibly financing an expansion of homeownership for Black families will help make the future of our nation’s housing fundamentally fairer — and healthier — than its past.
Throughout a year defined by constant flux, Fannie Mae remained steadfastly focused on our mission. Our work helped keep more people in their homes, stabilize the housing market, and promote housing security through the crisis. In this report, we will present an assessment of Fannie Mae’s 2020 performance toward our goals to provide a stable source of liquidity for mortgage lending amid uncertain market conditions and to increase access to affordable home and rental housing finance in all markets, at all times.