THE POLITICS of housing finance reform are starting to get interesting. On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House Financial Services Committee passed the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners (PATH) Act, which would wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace the busted entities with — well, nothing, pretty much. For the first time in decades, no “government-sponsored enterprise” would be responsible for bundling most mortgages into marketable securities.
Under PATH, private investors would perform that function; Washington’s only role would be to supervise the quality of securitized mortgages. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) would remain as a source of government backing for mortgages to low-income first-time homebuyers, albeit to a more limited extent than present law allows. In short, Congress now has before it a fairly pure free-market alternative to the status quo, one that is likely to pass the House if and when the Republican leadership brings it to the floor.