The budgetary treatment of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is complex, as is the treatment of policy options for the housing finance system that CBO analyzes. The budgetary treatment of the GSEs involves two different accounting approaches: fair-value estimating of the costs of the GSEs’ mortgage guarantees and cash-based estimating of the GSEs’ transactions with the Treasury.
In CBO’s judgment, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are effectively part of the government. Hence, in its baseline budget projections for the coming 10 years, CBO accounts for the GSEs’ operations as though they are being conducted by a federal agency. CBO measures the cost of the GSEs’ mortgage guarantees on a fair-value basis by effectively using market prices for those guarantees. (The fair value of a liability, such as a loan guarantee, is the price that would have to be paid to induce a private financial institution to assume the liability.)
Although Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are currently controlled by the government, the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) treats them as nongovernmental entities for budgetary purposes. OMB records in the budget only cash transactions between the Treasury and the GSEs. In its budget estimates for the current year, CBO too presents the projected cost of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on a cash basis so that its estimates for the current year are consistent with how the Administration reports budget totals.
Congressional Budget Office
September 18, 2018