Julia Gordon on collaborating with industry, working at HUD
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) wants industry feedback to improve the policies governing the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program, Commissioner Julia Gordon said at the annual reverse mortgage industry conference last week in Atlanta.
Industry partners, including reverse mortgage companies, should provide complete and detailed information to the extent possible when making policy proposals or program recommendations related to FHA, Gordon said during from a conversation with National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) CEO Peter Bell. . This is how improvements are madeshe says.
Gordon also offered more details about the scope of her work at FHA, how she views the HECM program and some of the agency’s goals. Here are some of the highlights of his conversation with Bell.
What Gordon Keeps in Mind
“What I really focus on is communities and people who don’t have a seat at the table,” Gordon said. “And in all the jobs I’ve had, what I’ve wanted to do is try to get access to decision-making [done at] these tables, and represent the people I know are there. And [this audience] — all of you who work in customer-facing businesses — know things about people’s real lives that not everyone in government knows. And it’s so important to have that information when we’re developing policies or designing programs. »
Gordon told the audience that her previous work with the non-profit National Community Stabilization Trust helped her gain detailed knowledge of various housing markets across the country.
“It’s so exciting now to be able to take all this information and bring it [to my work now],” she said. “HUD is what we call a ‘mid-size’ agency, but the Office of Housing is the largest office within HUD. I’ve never run anything like this. size and of this magnitude [before]but I will tell you that the fundamentals are quite similar.
These fundamentals include investing in a talented workforce to execute.
“[Having] more staff is more difficult, but it’s not much different,” she said. “We ensure everyone is mission-aligned, energetic, and working hard for their stakeholders and customers. That’s the most important job, and beyond that, it’s just really knowing where you want to go.
The importance of career staff, the challenges of working in HUD
Most conversations about government agencies or programs tend to focus largely on political appointments, which come and go with different administrations. Gordon said she was impressed with the dedication of career staff, who are more insulated from shifting political headwinds, she explained.
“I hadn’t realized how awesome most of the staff were,” she said. “We have a wonderful and very competent staff. [This audience] is more likely to have worked with people from the single-family team, or perhaps the National Servicing Center. We have people who have been around for a very long time, and they know so much that can only be acquired through a lifetime of dedication to this work. »
Gordon also touched on the challenges of working at a large government agency, notorious for its monolithic bureaucracy and poor tech stack.
“Working in a federal agency, when it comes to the bureaucracy of federal procurement, human resources and technology, is incredibly difficult,” she said. “The way the federal government is organized places certain constraints that are actually on HUD that are not on other agencies. It’s a constant challenge, and it requires [much of] my attention. I would love to spend all my time on policy and program design, but I have to spend a lot of time on these other things because we can’t build a modern 21st century program without having the underlying technology that we have need.
Bell said housing seemed to be more of a priority for the Biden administration than previous administrations, leading to a question about how different agencies can work together to achieve various housing goals.
“I was fortunate to be part of the Biden-Harris transition team, where my job was actually to look at the FHFA, FHA, and VA and USDA housing programs to try to put in place a path and a plan for administration,” Gordon said. “I’ve always believed that the more all of these agencies – the banking regulators and the Treasury, Transport and Energy Ministries – the more we all work together, the better the results will be.”
Gordon said interagency groups have worked collectively to address housing challenges and housing-adjacent issues, including with assessments. Other issues on which multiple agencies have helped determine what action to take include loss mitigation programs and pandemic-related forbearances, both of which have had a direct impact on the reverse mortgage industry and its borrowers.