Nearly a year after assuming interim leadership of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Sandra Thompson has been named the agency’s permanent director.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Thompson as FHFA director by a 49-46 vote.
Thompson touts more than four years of experience in government, particularly in financial regulation, risk management, and consumer protection. She’s also worked at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for more than 23 years, holding several leadership roles, including director of the Division of Risk Management Supervision.
Thompson was named FHFA’s acting director by President Biden in June 2021. He then asserted that Thompson was his front runner for the job toward the end of last year.
“I am honored that President Biden nominated me to be the FHFA Director and for my confirmation by the Senate today,” said Thompson in a statement. “I appreciate the support I received, and I look forward to continuing to work with Congress and other stakeholders as I fulfill my new role.”
While the day was ultimately hers, Thompson gained mixed reviews during her confirmation hearing as a member of the Senate Banking Committee and discussed her achievements in the short time she led the FHFA.
“I can think of no other nominee as qualified to work and make homes more affordable and available to families throughout the country while strengthening the financial standing of the GSEs,” said Senate Banking Committee’s chairman, Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
Brown used his opening remarks to highlight Thompson’s resume and accomplishments in the past six months, including her work to strengthen the GSE’s plans to preserve affordable housing and support manufactured housing in rural areas.
Over the last several months, Thompson has tackled the homeownership gap, addressing “irresponsible lending practices,” and collaborated on an interagency fair lending initiative.
Thompson was also criticized by ranking Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who questioned the lack of prioritizing the transition out of conservatorship for the GSEs.
“I’m concerned that the administration is seeking to use FHFA and the GSEs to take on more risks for taxpayers and expand affirmative action into housing,” Toomey said, suggesting that Thompson’s nomination was a “referendum on the administration’s radical housing policy.”
He also claimed that the policy would repurpose the GSEs as social policy tools while embracing a failed model.
“This administration is using the power of the GSEs conservatorship to command and control a huge swath of the American economy and are now asked to ratify this radial housing policy and take ownership of the bailouts and foreclosures that I’m afraid are likely to follow especially given where we might be in the housing cycle,” Toomey said. “We should be reluctant to do so.”
Despite the concerns, leaders of the GSEs commended Thompson and celebrated her confirmation as they looked forward to the growth of the collaborative relationship between the agencies.
“We look forward to building on this relationship under the leadership of Director Thompson with a continued focus on our mission to advance equitable and sustainable access to homeownership and quality affordable rental housing across America,” said Fannie Mae President and interim CEO Dave Benson in a statement.
Freddie Mac CEO Michael DeVito echoed similar sentiments and applauded the announcement in a separate statement emailed to RISMedia.
News of Thompson’s confirmation also garnered praise across the housing and lending industry as organizations showed their support following the decision.
“Director Thompson’s confirmation comes at a time when the housing market and mortgage finance system face historic challenges, including critical questions related to housing affordability, accessibility, and inventory,” said Leslie Rouda Smith, president of the National Association of REALTORS®. “We look forward to working with her and the entire FHFA to identify solutions that will secure the future of housing finance in America.”
Bob Broeksmit, CMB, president, and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, issued the following statement on Thompson being confirmed as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA):
“Since being appointed Acting Director in June 2021, she has repeatedly demonstrated leadership, expertise, and a strong commitment to sound risk management principles while safely expanding access to mortgage credit and creating equitable and sustainable housing solutions for homeowners and renters.
“We look forward to continuing our important work with Director Thompson, FHFA, the GSEs, and other stakeholders to provide affordable housing opportunities for all Americans, while protecting taxpayers and ensuring a robust secondary mortgage market for single-family and multifamily lenders of all sizes and business models.”