Senate Banking moves on housing reform

The Senate Banking Committee next month plans to mark up legislation that would significantly curb the government's role in the housing market.

Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who drafted the bipartisan compromise, on Friday said the panel will take up the bill on April 29.

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“After canvassing other members of the committee, we plan to schedule a markup of our bipartisan housing finance reform proposal on Tuesday, April 29th,” Johnson said. 

“From the start, members of the committee have been extremely engaged on the issue and have demonstrated a sincere interest in advancing reform in a bipartisan manner. I look forward to a thoughtful debate in committee as we seek to move reform one step closer to the finish line.”

Crapo said it is “critical” the panel move on reworking the housing market, which has leaned heavily on federal support since the 2008 rescue of the housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The plan from Johnson and Crapo relies on a framework drawn up earlier by panel members Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and would break apart Fannie and Freddie while making other major changes to the mortgage system.

While many committee members are eager to move on the legislation, its prospects for passage in 2014 are dim. Both parties, as well as the administration, have agreed on the need to overhaul the housing market and gradually eliminate Fannie and Freddie and replace them with something else, but they differ on the details.

Determining the exact role for the government in a remade housing market and how to handle affordable housing are among the issues where lawmakers are still searching for common ground.

In addition to the two bills coming out of the Senate, the top Republican and Democrat of the House Financial Services Committee — Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) — have offered their own housing finance reform bills.