Fannie Mae to sell longtime headquarters

The mortgage giant Fannie Mae has decided to sell its headquarters in northwest Washington, as the bailed-out housing agency eyes leaner operations.

The government-sponsored enterprise, which currently has its operations spread across five buildings in Washington, D.C., said Thursday that it plans to consolidate into one leased office building someplace downtown.

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A Fannie Mae representative said the agency is still looking for a new location and plans to make the move in the next two to three years as existing leases expire.

“We are focused on making responsible real estate decisions to ensure the wise use of resources, the safety and soundness of operations, and flexibility to adapt to changes in our future workplace needs,” the representative said.

The move to a single downtown building means it would be leaving its longtime headquarters, located in Northwest Washington along Wisconsin Avenue, across the street from the Sidwell Friends Academy, the private D.C. school President Obama's daughters attend.

The move comes as the future for Fannie Mae, as well as fellow GSE Freddie Mac, remains uncertain. The institutions guarantee the vast majority of the nation’s mortgages and saw their finances sunk during the subprime mortgage crisis.

Congress had to step in and bail out the enterprises to avoid bankruptcy. And while the two have seen their finances largely recover in the following years, they remain beholden to the federal government and are required to send all profits to the Treasury Department.

Both parties, as well as the White House, have agreed that the current housing finance system is unsustainable, and that the current version of Fannie and Freddie should be scrapped or overhauled. But legislative efforts to do so have stalled, with no sign of action before the next Congress is sworn in in 2015.