Urban Institute researchers monitor and assess housing market trends, affordable housing, homelessness, federal housing assistance, racial disparities and housing discrimination, and community revitalization. We recommended greater regulation and reforms for subprime mortgages before the housing market collapse and continue to follow its effects on families and neighborhoods. Our research informs decisionmakers with neighborhood-level data and evaluations of federal housing programs. Read more.
States and non-profit organizations have used three approaches to successfully integrate enrollment and retention of health and human services programs:
1. Streamlining one program's eligibility determination based on data from other programs. This approach has helped uninsured children receive and retain health coverage, helped low-income seniors obtain SNAP, and produced state administrative savings.
2. Coordinated administration of multiple programs. Administrative savings resulted when multiple programs integrated their systems for case records, data matching, eligibility rules engines, on-line applications, and benefit payment.
3. Coordinating enrollment. Community colleges exemplify sites for enrolling consumers into multiple health and human services at once.
Human services programs can benefit from 90 percent federal funding for information technology investments that are complete by the end of 2015 and that: 1) build a service that helps both Medicaid and human services; or 2) build an interface that helps Medicaid use human services records to verify eligibility or "fast track" enrollment. Once the Affordable Care Act is fully phased in, Medicaid will be the country's most widely-used need-based program. Human services programs can use Medicaid records to streamline eligibility determination, despite limits on information sharing and differences between Medicaid and human services program rules, including household definitions.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency has proposed a thoughtful path to creating a single security for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, using the Common Securitization infrastructure, in its August Request for Input. While the proposal would benefit from a more definitive time frame, its many strong provisions make it likely to succeed and benefit taxpayers, borrowers and lenders. A key strength of the proposal is the structural provisions – which ensure that the securities backed by both entities will trade equivalently, ending the costly subsidies Freddie has been forced to pay to stay competitive. Ultimately, moving toward this single security should make the market more responsive to borrower and lender needs, boost competition, increase the availability of mortgage credit and potentially help pave the way for GSE reform.
This commentary discusses the impact of the federal government's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) on mortgage loan default rates between April 2009 and November 2011. We analyze a unique borrower-level data set from Freddie Mac and conclude that HARP more than halved the default rate, a material and significant improvement.
The mortgage insurance industry plays an important role in the housing finance system, providing insurance against default by borrowers with low down payment loans. The industry struggled during the housing bust, and while it has done much to shore up its financial health in the subsequent recovery, more needs to be done to strengthen and stabilize the industry if it is to play the central role in the housing finance system that many envision for it.
The Private Mortgage Insurance Eligibility Requirements, recently put forth by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, are intended to do precisely that. A thoughtful effort, these standards should succeed in ensuring that private mortgage insurers are strong counterparties to the government-sponsored enterprises and a much improved bulwark against excessive risk in the system.
Several features of the rules as currently written, however, would likely unnecessarily increase costs and cyclicality in the mortgage and housing markets. With a few modest changes, these flaws can be remedied without sacrificing the considerable benefits of the new standards.