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We begin with a simple concept -- the American taxpayer should not be on the hook for the losses incurred by privately owned and operated businesses.
Multifamily housing—rental housing for five or more families-- is a business that has historically provided substantial profits. No one should object to wealth honestly earned through free enterprise and risk-taking. Providing extensive government guarantees for multifamily lending is another matter. It is corporate welfare and crony capitalism—where profits are privatized but the losses are taken by the taxpayers—and should be rejected as government policy.
In preparing this brief, we reviewed the recent papers from Fannie and Freddie (the GSEs) regarding the potential viability of their multifamily business units without federal guarantees. Both papers lend substantial support to our general conclusions:
1. We have said that it was plausible though not certain that the multifamily business units could be viable without federal guaranties. Freddie Mac said “absent access to a government guarantee, the [multifamily] business would be economically viable” while Fannie Mae saw the risks looming larger than the opportunities.
2. That the GSEs multifamily business units have good viability prospects confirms our view that the private market will respond to the opportunities multifamily lending presents. Whether the two GSE multifamily business units have a role in that response, and if so what that role might be, is secondary to whether a government guarantee for multifamily is good policy.
3. The presence of a government guarantee provides a small downward movement in multifamily interest rates, in the general range we have estimated;
4. This results in increases to both property values and debt levels;
5. There is little if any connection between multifamily interest rates and rents paid by tenants.
6. The government subsidy is captured by the owners of larger, higher-end properties in the form of higher property values and larger mortgages and by the GSEs themselves in the form of duopsony profits.
7. Political pressure to subsidize ‘affordable’ loans is present, is increasing, and can be expected to increase further if the federal guaranty is continued.
8. The presence of a government guarantee preserves one of the GSEs’ worst features—hybrids that are neither pure government nor pure private.
Click here to read the full policy brief.