Everywhere in the World, Governments Heavily Regulate the Home Mortgage Business

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Yesterday I wrote about problems with the mortgage finance market, which are mostly due to the fact that private lenders aren’t interested in funding 30-year fixed-rate mortgages on their own. There’s just too much risk. This means that if we want the mortgage market to revive, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to start guaranteeing these mortgages again in the same volumes they used to.

One obvious response to this is that the 30-year fixed mortgage wasn’t handed down on stone tablets from Mt. Sinai. It was an invention of the New Deal. Other countries get by just fine without them, and so can we. We should just get the government out of the mortgage market entirely and let banks make whatever kinds of loans they want.

We could do that. But it’s well to keep in mind that although other countries might not have outfits like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they do have plenty of government regulation of the mortgage loan market. If you’re curious about how mortgages work outside the US, Michael Hiltzik provides a useful rundown of Canada here. Other countries work differently, but the principle is the same: there’s always supervision of some kind. Getting rid of Fannie and Freddie is a defensible option, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of government regulation. You’ll just end up with different government regulation.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest