A group of progressive lawmakers plan on Wednesday to call on an obscure-but-powerful federal housing official to help struggling homeowners — or resign instead.
Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including CPC co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), will join underwater homeowners from California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts and Washington State to demand that Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward DeMarco commit to large-scale principal reduction for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages or get out of the way for a FHFA director who will.
DeMarco is hardly a household name, yet The Washington Post calls him “the most powerful man in housing policy.”
Created during the Bush administration, the FHFA oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — and DeMarco himself is a Bush holdover. Since Senate Republicans blocked President Obama’s own nominee for to head up the agency, the president and fellow Democrats have become frustrated by DeMarco’s stronger interest in shoring up Fannie and Freddie instead of helping U.S. homeowners. DeMarco has kept the two mortgage giants from participating in the Obama administration’s principal-reduction initiatives. This has been a big problem because, combined, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae own or guarantee more than half of all mortgages in the country.
“Twelve million Americans owe more money than their home is worth,” Ellison and his CPC co-chair, Rep. Raul Grijalva, say in a a recent statement. “The American people have been duped, lied to, and kicked out of their homes, and now it’s time for Mr. DeMarco to stand up and do right by them.”
DeMarco may be obscure, but more and more attention is coming his way.
The Campaign For America’s Future, a progressive Washington policy shop, recently started an online petition, also pressuring DeMarco to either assist homeowners or step down.
“DeMarco is refusing to authorize write-downs of mortgages held by Fannie and Freddie. He’s said to be ‘philosophically opposed,'” the petition says. “This makes no sense. Write-downs –?by the agency’s own reports — would save taxpayers $28 billion compared to the cost of foreclosures. And they would help revive the economy.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.