Freddie Mac chairman and CEO Dick Syron spoke candidly to investors and analysts yesterday when he told the group that housing prices had only declined by about one-third of what the large government-sponsored enterprise expects.
Syron said Freddie Mac sees a "peak to trough" decline of about 15 percent in housing prices in the conventional conforming loan market in which Freddie Mac does business.
The Freddie Mac chairman said the number would be much higher if economists measured the Case-Shiller index, which tracks 20 metro markets, primarily on the coasts.
"We're not pretending that the housing downturn has come to a bottom or is anywhere near it," said Syron.
"This is the worst housing market in a century, and it's not incorrect to say we're in a 100-year storm," Syron said. "Those of us in this forget how extraordinary this [downturn] is."
Freddie Mac certainly took its lumps last year, reporting a net loss of $3.1 billion for the year ending on Dec. 31, 2007. This is compared to net income of $2.3 billion for 2006. For the fourth quarter, the company sustained a net loss of $2.5 billion compared to a net loss of $401 million in the fourth quarter of 2006.
When asked by analysts how Freddie Mac will meet its affordable public policy goals in the future, Syron was once again candid: "It's not good public policy to have mission goals to put people in homes that they will end up losing. We have to face that given we have a public policy mission that we have to do things that make sense."