DAVID STEVENS officially joined the Washington, D.C.– based Mortgage Bankers Association this May, replacing John Courson as president and CEO of the influential housing finance trade group. With deep policy and capital markets experience—including his most recent gig, as assistant secretary for housing at HUD and commissioner of the FHA—Stevens brings a breadth of knowledge to bear on an association he feels needs to be more proactive with both the government and consumers.
Stevens took some time to chat with Apartment Finance Today about multifamily construction lending, capital markets, and the evolution of housing finance policy reform.
What agenda items have occupied your attention thus far at the MBA?
I come from a perspective of having seen how the industry approaches the Obama administration on various housing issues, so I walk into this role realizing that the MBA has an opportunity to change the way it engages in dialogue, not just with the administration but with Congress and other stakeholders. We're in the middle of a massive amount of regulatory policy- and rule-making, with legislation coming at the industry from both parties in various forms. There is a very extensive debate [going on about] the future of housing finance, so my goal has been to eff ectively communicate to our members that we can have a stronger voice in that dialogue.
Has there been a permanent shift in policymaker psychology about the rentversus- own dichotomy?
I don't think it's a significant shift; I think it's realignment back to the morebalanced view that we had for many decades up until the early 2000s, when products were created on the purchase front that just were not sustainable. I think there's been a healthy realignment of the broad regulatory and housing finance infrastructure that oversold single-family housing. As a result, as we move forward, I expect a much more balanced housing policy.
Is 221(d)(4) holding up apartment development?
The exploding volume at FHA, particularly within the 221(d)(4) program, is clearly the reflection of an absence of private capital in the markets. Most of the multifamily developers I've spoken to over the past couple of years would prefer not to have to stand in line at FHA waiting for resources. There's nothing to blame FHA about: Their resources are set by appropriations from Congress. I don't see a quick and easy solution to deal with those pipeline backlogs. Probably the real question has to be, how do we get private capital or other forms of capital to come back into new construction?
What mark do you hope to leave at the MBA?
My first goal is to help the MBA return to [its position as] the single strongest voice for the housing finance industry. Second, I think we have a role to play in regaining the American consumer's trust in the mortgage finance system. I think the MBA can help reduce the trust deficit that was created when the market got out of control and regulators didn't regulate, financial systems didn't have controls in place, and consumers went too far in the purchasing of homes. My third goal is to improve the internal finances of the MBA, as we've been through some fairly significant and well- publicized financial turmoil. We need to be a fiscally strong and wellmanaged institution to help make sure there is rational housing policy.