Perspectives

Home's Never Been More Important

Hugh R. FraterThere are times when the notion of "home" takes on a far more tangible, urgent meaning. This is one of those times.

Across the world, alleviating the suffering caused by COVID-19 — and preventing further suffering — is today's urgent need. Housing security and stability are important elements of that urgent need — and not just because millions of us are working (or unemployed) at home.

In the wake of the economic downturn, many borrowers and renters will need help keeping their homes in the face of job losses, reductions in income, sickness, and other disruptions wrought by the pandemic.

By our charter and by our choice, Fannie Mae's mission is to provide stability and funding to the housing and mortgage market in good times and tough times.

Now is one of those tough times. And it clarifies our priorities for the months ahead.

Our priorities

1. We will support our customers and their borrowers and renters through this crisis.

We will provide sustainable housing options to help keep people in their homes until they can get back on their feet. In the years since the financial crisis of 2008, we have developed a solid toolkit for helping struggling homeowners. It's time to use that toolkit at the scale required by this moment — and adapt it to fit the needs of the current crisis.

2. We will lean into the housing challenges brought by the pandemic.

We will work with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), customers, borrowers, and advocacy groups to develop creative new solutions for housing security through both the crisis and the recovery. Fannie Mae has a lot to offer in times like this. This includes a resilient workforce and infrastructure; deep knowledge about mortgages, housing, and capital markets; relationships with more than 1,200 mortgage lenders and servicers in communities across the nation; and a strong tradition of employee volunteerism. We are prepared to use our full resources to meet the challenge ahead of us.

3. We will put people first.

We will not forget that it is people who make our company what it is, and it is people we serve. Therefore, we will safeguard the health and well-being of employees, so they can continue to serve the people of America. The people of Fannie Mae have brought talent and dedication to the job of affordable, sustainable housing for over 80 years. Our people will help borrowers and renters stay in their homes, help customers stay in business, and help ensure that the nation's mortgage and housing markets are open for business.

Our actions so far

Working closely with FHFA, our company began acting on these priorities in early March.

  • We suspended existing foreclosure proceedings for single-family borrowers and evictions from single-family properties we own.
  • Knowing that mortgage servicers have a unique and vital role to play in helping struggling homeowners, we have worked closely with them to make forbearance plans accessible and easy for borrowers. We will continue to support servicers' work to create practical solutions for homeowners.
  • Today, we offer a range of simple repayment options following forbearance, including catch-up plans, payment deferral, or a modification that reduces monthly payments if the borrower needs a more affordable payment.
  • We do NOT require repayment of missed payments all at once at the end of a forbearance plan if the borrower is financially unable to make it.
  • We continue to update KnowYourOptions.com, a key industry source for reliable, specific information about getting help if you are a homeowner or renter struggling to make payments as a result of COVID-19. It includes information on how to access the Disaster Response Network's HUD-approved housing counselors, who can help navigate the broader financial challenges many are facing.
  • We are allowing multifamily lenders to grant forbearance to borrowers in rental properties financed by Fannie Mae for up to three months if the borrower is experiencing a financial hardship due to the impact of COVID-19. As part of the forbearance plan — and as required by the CARES Act — borrowers must agree to suspend evictions of tenants for nonpayment of rent for the period of forbearance.
  • We're helping to keep the mortgage market open, providing more than $80 billion in liquidity in March, including more than $40 billion through our whole-loan conduit, to support lenders, including smaller community lenders.
  • We're helping the mortgage market operate remotely, creating flexibilities for things like verification of employment and supporting remote notarization, as well as new options for property appraisals that don't require appraisers to physically go into the home or apartment unit.

These are just the first steps. The real work of keeping people in homes, stabilizing the housing market, and helping to ensure housing security through and beyond the crisis lies ahead. Fannie Mae's housing mission is part of our DNA. It's also in our nature to look forward — to see a positive future for families and our nation's prosperity that is rooted in affordable housing.

Every day, we're bringing that hopeful spirit to the work before us as a company and a country. We know that this, too, shall pass.

Hugh R. Frater
CEO, Fannie Mae

May 5, 2020