Senate Democrats have urged the U.S. Treasury Department, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to swiftly develop a strategy for handling vacant foreclosed homes overseen by federal housing bodies.
Led by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., more than two dozen senators wrote the agencies' leadership last week imploring them to quickly and diligently analyze feedback from the FHFA's request for information (RFI) in August. The RFI sought recommendations on how Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) should sell or rent real estate owned (REO) properties.
"We urge you to analyze, quickly and diligently, the input you have received so that all REO properties under your control may be best managed to produce the most value for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA," the senators wrote. "As part of this analysis, we ask that you also keep in mind the importance of looking for the most effective ways to stabilize neighborhoods and housing values."
Since last year, Reed has advocated the conversion of vacant REOs into affordable, energy-efficient rentals. In a statement last week, he accused Republicans of "seemingly embracing a "let it fall' policy when it comes to legislative housing solutions."
"Developing an innovative REO initiative could help turn lemons into lemonade by creating new opportunities for businesses and investors while simultaneously increasing the supply of rental housing and reducing foreclosures," Reed said.
In their letter, the Democrats requested that the FHFA, the Treasury and the FHA provide a time frame for completing its review of RFI submissions; highlight particular strategies that appear promising, as well as challenges and concerns; and explain the likely next steps following completion of the review.