Bet the house: Why the FHA is going (for) broke

Article Highlights

  • The #FHA is deeply insolvent, with a capital shortfall of tens of billions of dollars

    Tweet This

  • Using its own rosy numbers puts the FHA's leverage at 840 to 1, a far more scandalous ratio than even #Fannie and #Freddie

    Tweet This

  • FHA raising its conforming loan limit to $729,750 pleased realtors, but poured fuel on the fire burning up its capital

    Tweet This

No serious observer of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) believes its financial future is bright. But few Bet the House: Why the FHA is Going (For) Broke

Download PDF
recognize just how troubled this government agency really is. That is because it uses lax accounting standards that obscure real and present danger to its own bottom line and the American taxpayer. In fact, when measured against the accounting system used by private mortgage insurers, the FHA is deeply insolvent, with a capital shortfall of tens of billions of dollars. If it were a private firm, state regulators would immediately shut it down. 

Even using its own rosy numbers puts the FHA's leverage at 840 to 1, a far more scandalous ratio than even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As shown by Fannie and Freddie as recently as 2008 and the slow-motion collapse of the savings and loans (S&Ls) in the 1980s, if government-backed entities are allowed to continue operating when they are insolvent, their losses will only compound.

Indeed, the FHA has almost tripled its insurance in force in only three years, in part to cover its losses. And Congress made matters worse last fall when it raised the FHA's conforming loan limit to $729,750. That pleased the powerful National Association of Realtors, but it simply poured fuel on the fire. Before the agency's losses skyrocket, triggering a massive taxpayer bailout that deepens our nation's debt, Congress should reverse that mistake and enact reforms to pull the FHA back from the brink. 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Peter J.
Wallison

What's new on AEI

To secure southern border, US must lead international effort to stabilize Central America
image The Ryan pro-work, anti-poverty plan: Thomas Aquinas 1, Ayn Rand 0
image Does SNAP support work? Yes and no
image Obama Democrats lose their big bet on health exchanges
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.