Each year the Joint Center for Housing Studies appoints a number of senior fellows who have made distinguished contributions to research, policy, or industry and who help support our mission to advance understanding of housing issues and inform policy. This year, we are pleased to have two new fellows who will focus specifically on the issue of housing finance reform: Donald Layton, the newly retired CEO of Freddie Mac, and Michael Stegman, the MacRae Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former senior official in the White House, Treasury Department, and HUD.
The coming year has the potential to be a momentous one in the long drawn out process of reforming the US housing finance system. The Trump administration will soon release its plan for administrative and legislative reforms of the system, which it has indicated is a high priority for the remainder of the President’s term. Meanwhile, newly appointed FHFA Director Mark Calabria has indicated that he intends to take steps to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship as soon as practicable. Skeptics of the prospect for significant change in the near-term can rightly point to the failure of the political system to tackle this issue over the past decade as the best predictor of a continued stalemate. But if nothing else, actions by the Trump administration have already stirred a renewed discussion of policy options that may well shape the approaches ultimately adopted. Through our fellows, the Center intends to contribute to this critically important debate.
Don and Mike both bring enormous expertise to this discussion, although from very different perspectives. Don has spent the last 7 years of his 40-year career in the financial services industry, leading Freddie Mac through a period of fundamental reform and so has a unique and authoritative understanding about the operations of these enterprises and how different policy proposals could play out in practice. Mike has had not only a distinguished career as an academic, but also had senior policy positions in the White House and at Treasury during the Clinton and Obama administrations and so has been deeply immersed in both the technical and political aspects of the housing finance reform debate. (Given Mike’s long history more broadly in US housing policy, he will also use his fellowship to comment on important housing policy discussions being spurred in part by proposals by Democratic candidates for President.)
I am very pleased to have both Don and Mike affiliated with the Center over the coming year to share their expertise and their views. Other fellows, who bring a wealth of expertise and a diversity of perspectives, will also join this discussion from time to time. Given the profound importance of the housing system in helping to make housing available and affordable—not to mention in determining the health and stability of the macroeconomy—I’m hopeful that our fellows will make a significant, positive contribution to this year’s burgeoning policy debate.