Much works need to be done at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), according to Brian Montgomery, who took the helm of the agency a little more than a month ago.

“We’re probably in fix-it mode,” he said in describing his overall plans during a call with reporters this week, noting that updating the agency’s aging technology infrastructure is at the top of the list.

Brian Montgomery
Brian Montgomery

He cited how the government-sponsored enterprises have beefed up their tech platforms, but “FHA is looking for loose change under the sofa cushion. That manifests itself in a lot of ways.”

FHA’s tech system had 73 outages in 2017, with some lasting as long as five days, according to officials.

Montgomery is back for his second turn as FHA commissioner and assistant secretary for housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He previously held the post from 2005 to 2009 under George W. Bush and briefly into the Obama administration. He was recently a partner at the Collingwood Group, a Washington, D.C.–based advisory firm focused on consulting and risk management within the financial services industry.

Hiring additional staff members is another issue that needs to be tackled this year, said Montgomery, noting that some of the people he worked with during his first term have retired or have left HUD for higher-paying positions. “We have a great core here,” he said. “We just need to expand on that. We’ve got a lot of vacancies.”

The last time he checked there were 114 vacancies at HUD.

Montgomery was asked if the agency has plans to help minority borrowers achieve the dream of homeownership. “The minority homeownership numbers have dropped in particular for African-Americans,” he said. “I think for Latinos it’s been more or less static for a couple of years. … Too many minority families are missing out on the benefits of wealth building and wealth accumulation that homeownership over the long term typically brings.”

Approximately 33% of first-time homebuyers with FHA are minorities, according to Montgomery. “It’s one of the things we’re looking to expand as we move forward,” he said.

While agency leaders will be taking a close look at FHA’s single-family housing business, they'll also dive into its multifamily programs, according to Montgomery, who was confirmed to his post on a 74-23 Senate vote in May.

Montgomery said he wants “to do what I can to help preserve” the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) Multifamily Loan Risk-Sharing program. “I know it’s been proposed for elimination in some instances,” he said. “Again, it’s on my list of things to look at.”

The program allows the FHA to enter into risk-sharing agreements with state and local HFAs so the agencies can provide more insurance and better financing for multifamily loans.

Asked about the FHA’s low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) pilot program, he said prior administrations have worked to better align FHA programs with the LIHTC, and the current team will continue to try to improve coordination between the programs.