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Exactly four years ago, during the early days of the financial crisis, the federal government took control of mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through a legal process called conservatorship. On the fourth anniversary of their conservatorship, here are seven things you need to know about the two mortgage giants.


A Royal Bank study says buying a home in Canada has become slightly less affordable for the average homeowner. Freddie says its earnings were due largely to increased profits from investments made to hedge against rising interest rates. That helped offset losses on mortgages during the quarter. Freddie, based in McLean, Va. Treasury next month and is requesting no additional aid. The government rescued Freddie and larger sibling Fannie Mae during the financial crisis in A housing recovery that began last year has made both profitable again.

Those payments are helping to make this year's federal budget deficit the smallest since President Barack Obama took office.

Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half of all U. Along with other federal agencies, they back roughly 90 per cent of new mortgages. Fannie and Freddie don't directly make loans to borrowers. They buy mortgages from lenders, package them as bonds, guarantee them against default and sell them to investors. That helps make loans available and exert influence over the housing market.

On Tuesday, Obama proposed a broad overhaul of the U. He declared that taxpayers should never again be left "holding the bag" for the mortgage giants' risky moves.

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Obama wants to replace them with a system that would put the private sector, not the government, primarily at risk for the loans. The government would still be involved, both in oversight and as a last-resort loan guarantor. Obama also wants a guarantee that private lenders will make sure homeowners have access to year fixed mortgages.

A fix to the housing finance system is unlikely to be easy. Obama's plan is in line with bipartisan Senate legislation. But most House Republicans want the market almost completely privatized, while many Democrats insist on government having a larger role. Nearly all of Freddie's second-quarter profit is going back to the government. Freddie CEO Donald Layton told reporters in a conference call that the company will consider applying all or a portion of those tax benefits in coming quarters.

For Fannie and Freddie, a better housing market means fewer delinquent loans on their books. The companies also are charging mortgage lenders higher fees to guarantee the loans. With more loans and higher fees, Fannie and Freddie are earning more. Fannie and Freddie are also taking on less risk than during the pre-crisis years. That's because banks are requiring higher credit scores and larger down payments from prospective buyers.

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