Clinton Pressure to Promote Affordable Housing Led to Mortgage Meltdown

The current mortgage crisis came about in large part because of Clinton-era government pressure on lenders to make risky loans in order to make homeownership more affordable for lower-income Americans and those with a poor credit history,” the DC Examiner notes today.   “Those steps encouraged riskier mortgage lending by minimizing the role of credit histories in lending decisions, loosening required debt-to-equity ratios to allow  borrowers to make small or even no down payments at all, and encouraging lenders the use of floating or adjustable interest-rate mortgages, including those with low ‘teasers.’”

The liberal Village Voice previously chronicled how Clinton Administration housing secretary Andrew Cuomo helped spawn the mortgage crisis through his pressure on lenders to promote affordable housing and diversity.   Andrew Cuomo, the youngest Housing and Urban Development secretary in history, made a series of decisions between 1997 and 2001 that gave birth to the country’s current crisis. He took actions that—in combination with many other factors—helped plunge Fannie and Freddie into the subprime markets without putting in place the means to monitor their increasingly risky investments.

He turned the Federal Housing Administration mortgage program into a sweetheart lender with sky-high loan ceilings and no money down, and he legalized what a federal judge has branded ‘kickbacks’ to brokers that have fueled the sale of overpriced and unsupportable loans. Three to four million families are now facing foreclosure, and Cuomo is one of the reasons why.”  (See Wayne Barrett, “Andrew Cuomo and Fannie and Freddie: How the Youngest Housing and Urban Development Secretary in History Gave Birth to the Mortgage Crisis,” Village Voice, August 5, 2008).

Investors Business Daily had an editorial yesterday about how another federal “law designed to encourage minority homeownership” also contributed to the mortgage crisis by pressuring lenders to make risky loans.

The Bush Administration also deserves criticism: although some Bush Administration officials meekly advocated reforms” of the risky practices engaged in by the government-backed mortgage giants (the “Government-Sponsored Enterprises” Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, which received $10 billion annually in taxpayer subsidies even before their current bailout), Fannie’s well-paid lobbyists easily defeated those reform proposals by paying off liberal lawmakers and bullying critics.  And the Administration did nothing to end federal obsessions with “affordable housing” and “diversity” that encouraged lenders to make risky loans to borrowers with little savings.