Conservatorship Affirms Multi-Family Commitment

The two giant government-sponsored entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, always had the implicit backing of the U.S. government. But that unspoken backing gained official status in September when the government placed the two troubled giants into conservatorship.The new agency that oversees the two GSEs, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, released a statement on Sept. 12 emphasizing its commitment to the multi-family market.“FHFA recognizes the importance of all aspects of the enterprises’ multi-family businesses–including the LIHTC (low-income-housing tax credit) area and liquidity facilities for remarketed mortgage revenue bonds–for a healthy secondary market and housing affordability. In particular, support for multi-family housing finance is central to the enterprises’ public purpose,” the statement said.During the recent CityScape USA conference held in New York City, Kenneth Bacon, Fannie Mae’s executive vice president of housing and community development, asserted in his keynote address that the U.S. multi-family market has some strong demographic trends in its corner. The sector will be buoyed by projected population growth, a significant portion of it from continued immigration. But he also offered some caveats, noting that a recession is always a threat to the multi-family sector’s health. Also, some multi-family markets are faring far worse than others, Bacon said, naming Orlando’s rental stock as one example of a city’s multi-family sector being challenged by a “shadow market” caused by broken condominium projects.Some investors are expecting a certain amount of trouble in the multi-family sector and are strategizing accordingly. This month, GFI Capital Resources announced it had formed a joint venture with the major private equity player The Carlyle Group to acquire real estate assets throughout the United States, with an emphasis on multi-family properties. The partnership will provide GFI with $1.2 billion in buying power, leveraging a total of $300 million worth of equity. The company will focus on opportunistic acquisitions, in particular distressed and other non-performing assets, such as real estate debt. The company has made a number of recent acquisitions, including three properties totaling just under 1,000 residential units, all in the Atlanta area. GFI also recently purchased three non-performing loans on condo projects in various stages of development in Brooklyn.