Increased housing commitments swelled U.S. taxpayers' total support for the financial system by $700 billion in the past year to around $3.7 trillion, a government watchdog said on Wednesday.
The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said the increase was due largely to the government's pledges to supply capital to Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) and to guarantee more mortgages to the support the housing market.
Increased guarantees for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the Government National Mortgage Association and the Veterans administration increased the government's commitments by $512.4 billion alone in the year to June 30, according to the report.
"Indeed, the current outstanding balance of overall Federal support for the nation's financial system...has actually increased more than 23% over the past year, from approximately $3.0 trillion to $3.7 trillion -- the equivalent of a fully deployed TARP program -- largely without congressional action, even as the banking crisis has, by most measures, abated from its most acute phases," the TARP inspector general, Neil Barofsky, wrote in the report.
The total includes Federal Reserve programs and a myriad of asset guarantees, including Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. protection for bank deposits.
The increased government commitments more than offset about a $300 billion decline in the U.S. Treasury's TARP commitments in the past year as programs have closed and banks have repaid taxpayer funds.
HOUSING PROGRAMS CRITICIZED
Barofsky also in the report ramped up his criticism of the Treasury's housing relief efforts, saying that its program to reduce monthly mortgage payments for struggling homeowners was showing "anemic" participation numbers and had failed to "put an appreciable dent in foreclosure filings."
He said Treasury had refused his repeated recommendations to announce more effective goals and benchmarks for its mortgage modification program, which could reach up to $50 billion in TARP funds.
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