DIFC Economics Workshop on Housing Finance identifies need for establishment of a Mortgage Finance Guarantee Agency

Activation of home finance flows near to pre-crisis levels while properly managing risk is key to recovery and future growth of real estate in the Gulf

The need for a Mortgage Finance Agency to facilitate and expedite the development of the real estate and property markets was highlighted during a Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) event held here today.

Speakers and delegates attending the DIFC Economics Workshop on Housing Finance, evaluated the current scenarios, identified the key challenges facing the real estate sector in the region and discussed possible solutions.

It was generally agreed that the activation of home finance flows near to  pre-crisis levels was the key that would lead to faster recovery and future growth of the real estate sector, the building and related industries and it's contribution to the wider regional economy in the future.

However, the need for better risk management in the property development & financing sector  and establishing an improved real estate legal & regulatory framework in the region was also highlighted.

Dr Nasser Al Saidi, Chief Economist of the DIFC Authority, explained the rationale behind holding the workshop. "DIFC hosted the Economics Workshop on Housing Finance as the real estate sector is a major contributor  to the region's economic activity, representing major investments that have been made in the residential, commercial and industrial structures capital stock. It was one of the first to get affected by the still on-going global financial crisis and we need to find ways to reenergise it.

"One of the key ways of doing it is by exploring measures aimed at increasing housing finance and improving access to finance for buyers; on the supply side,  banks and mortgage finance firms need to better identify challenges and improve their ability to manage the associated risks," said the DIFC Chief Economist.

"The exuberant growth of the sector in pre-crisis times outpaced the institutional structure and sources of housing finance. In particular, we did not have a mature, well developed mortgage market to support the sector.  Now we feel that a Mortgage Finance Guarantee Agency should be established to maintain orderly conditions in the real estate markets,  supporting and facilitating this key sector and developing standard eligible mortgages. Such an agency would be an effective bedrock for  banking and financial  housing finance institutions, enabling them to better manage risks. There also needs to be the legal & regulatory infrastructure to support mortgage-backed securities and a secondary market for mortgages," added Dr. Al Saidi.

Syed Farhan Fasihuddin, Housing Specialist of IFC Global Financial Markets, said: "Increasing the availability of affordable housing finance is critical for bringing about stability in housing prices - DIFC's Housing Finance Workshop is an excellent forum to have a practical discussion with stakeholders on how to do this."

Wagn Erik Nørgaard, Vice President, International Systems Sale pointed out that: "during the financial crises the Danish Mortgage Credit Institutions have been able to continue to issue bonds on a daily basis in the market to finance home owners loans"

"Foreign investors sold heavily out of Danish Mortgage bonds during the crises as those bonds were some of the only liquid securities that still had trust in the financial community" he added.

Rizwan A. Shah, Director, Leader Capital Projects Advisory MENA Region, Deloitte Corporate Finance Limited, said "Given the many technical and financial challenges that high profile development projects have recently experienced, it is a strategic imperative for all stakeholders involved to have access to accurate information, secure the best advice and make the most effective decisions to safely navigate through current conditions, and to be in a position of strength once the economy recovers."

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