Suit says Fannie and Freddie are withholding profits

Housing advocates say a suspension imposed in 2008 should be lifted

Jul.July 12, 2013 04:00 PM

Chuck Elsesser

Low-income housing advocates filed a civil suit in Miami’s district court this week, alleging federal housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are illegally withholding profits that should be made available for rental assistance.

The case comes amid a severe inventory crunch in South Florida, where a real estate recovery is sending home prices and rents skyward.

The two Miami-area plaintiffs, Angela Samuels and Rossana Torres, fall into an estimated 7.1 million-unit gap nationwide for extremely low-income households.

“These are residents earning $12,000 a year. They can’t find affordable housing in the non-subsidized sector and there are 20,000 people on Miami’s waiting list for section 8. There really is nothing for them,” Chuck Elsessor of Florida Legal Services, the Miami plaintiffs’ attorney, told The Real Deal.

Broward County is also experiencing a severe affordable-housing crunch, according to Ann Deibert, the president and chief executive of the county’s housing authority.

The plaintiffs in the Miami case are suing the government mortgage lenders’ regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to lift a 2008 suspension on payments to two affordable-housing trust funds.

“The [plaintiffs] are emblematic of millions of families across the country whose incomes are insufficient to afford standard, modest housing, precisely who the national housing trust funds were intended to address,” Sheila Crowley, the president and chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based National Low Income Housing Coalition, told TRD.

Congress established the funds in July 2008, mandating that Freddie and Fannie devote .042 percent of their overall business to purchasing loans for extremely low-income people, a total sum of about $380 million in 2012.

The FHFA suspended those payments just four months later, after the government from balance sheets laden with distressed assets rescued the companies.

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