Mel Watt confirmed as FHFA director

Watt brings experience and fresh ideas to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulator

Congressman Melvin Watt was confirmed as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) by the United States Senate in a 57-41 vote yesterday. The FHFA is a powerful federal government agency responsible for regulating government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which invest in more than three-fourths of the nation’s new mortgages.

Senator Dick Durbin voted in favor of Watt's nomination, while Senator Mark Kirk was unable to vote due to an emergency surgery.

“We are thrilled that Illinois homeowners are finally getting an incredibly qualified leader at FHFA who will implement forward-looking policies to protect our communities from foreclosures,” said Dory Rand, president of Woodstock Institute. “With Congressman Watt’s vast experience and expertise, we have no doubt he will make an excellent leader of FHFA.”

Woodstock Institute has strongly supported Congressman Watt’s nomination. Watt brings a wealth of housing experience to the FHFA, including more than two decades on the House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee, advocating for affordable housing, fair lending, and strong consumer protections. Before his election to Congress, Watt worked on real estate and housing issues as a Yale-educated attorney in North Carolina. A wide range of organizations supported his nomination, including the National Association of Realtors, National Association of Home Builders, and Americans for Financial Reform.

Watt’s confirmation is especially welcome in the wake of outgoing director Ed DeMarco’s tenure, which was marked by obstruction and an unwillingness to use proven methods to prevent foreclosures at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, such as principal reduction for underwater borrowers. During his nomination hearings, Watt indicated openness to principal reduction.

“For years, Woodstock Institute has been calling for principal reduction to be used at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to prevent foreclosures,” said Rand. “We look forward to helping Congressman Watt and his staff in any way we can to support fresh ideas and approaches at FHFA.”

For more information, contact Courtney Eccles at ceccles@woodstockinst.org or 312-368-0310.