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Housing Bill Now Law

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President Bush has signed a massive housing bill into law. The legislation includes provisions for a stronger agency regulator, a first-time homebuyer tax credit and foreclosure assistance.

H.R. 3221, The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, was signed by the president today, according to a statement from the White House.

The legislation was passed by the Senate on Saturday and by the House earlier in the week.

Bush noted the new law authorizes the Department of the Treasury to purchase obligations of the government-sponsored housing enterprises, provides for Federal Housing Administration reform, creates programs to deal with the nation’s surging foreclosures and includes housing-related tax incentives.

photo of George Bush
White House photo of President Bush

Another provision of the bill is the creation of the Federal Housing Finance Agency to regulate Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks.

Bush has long sought such a more powerful regulator for the GSEs, which have recently suffered a loss of investor confidence.

James B. Lockhart, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight — which currently regulates Fannie and Freddie, now becomes director of FHFA, “a world-class, empowered regulator,” according to a statement from OFHEO today.

“For more than two years as Director of OFHEO I have worked to help create FHFA so that this new GSE regulator has far greater authorities than its predecessors,” Lockhart said. “I look forward to working with the combined Federal Housing Finance Board, Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight and Housing and Urban Development GSE Mission teams and with other regulators to ensure the safety and soundness of the 14 housing-related GSEs and the stability of the nation’s housing finance system.”

In a statement praising the new law, the National Association of Home Builders noted the bill includes a temporary first-time home buyer tax credit of $7,500, a provision for FHA to insure up to $300 billion in refinances of loans headed for foreclosure and a mortgage revenue bond program that will enable states to raise $11 billion for refinance programs.

Among others to praise the signing of the bill today were Daniel H. Mudd, Fannie’s president and chief executive officer; the National Association of Realtors and the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America.

After the legislation was passed by the Senate on Saturday, supportive statements were issued by the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, the Manufactured Housing Institute and Mortgage Bankers Association Chairman Kieran P. Quinn.

Related:

Housing Bill Approved
Landmark housing legislation has made it through both houses of Congress and is now on its way to the president’s desk.

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