Ginnie Mae announces expansion of ESG MBS label to single-family pools

The Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) announced on Thursday an expansion of its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) labeling to single-family mortgage-backed securities (MBS) pools, an expansion of a previous initiative that had only impacted multifamily pools, and which some analysts say an increasingly strong market for investors.

In an interview with HousingWire, Ginnie Mae President Alanna McCargo explained that this represents Ginnie’s first social bond label in the investment space.

“This is really about just furthering the specifics around Ginnie Mae’s social impact story,” McCargo said. “We’re a 55-year-old company and [during that time], we’ve been a social impact company. This team during my tenure has done the yeoman’s work of really amplifying, collecting and gathering all the loan-level data that is in our securities to be able to disclose that data to investors, so they really understand what’s in the pools that they’re buying and what they’re investing in.”

McCargo also stressed that determinations of social impact will be left to the investors, and will not be made by Ginnie Mae itself.

“Something that we’ve always been doing all along in terms of the borrowers that we support through the Ginnie Mae program are now much more clear and transparent so investors understand and know the social impact elements in their bonds,” she said. “And I think it’s important to say that we don’t determine if it’s social impact, investors do. But we’re making all the tools and all the data available to them to be able to do that.”

The expansion will come in the form of a new prospectus language that will identify the social impact elements of the bond, on top of the recent rollout of the company’s ESG composite social and sustainability data.

“It’s a disclosure we’re doing on a monthly basis,” McCargo said. “[It allows you to] see the data around what is in Ginnie Mae securities, how it is affecting or helping low-to-moderate income households, or seniors, all the different categories of social support that we provide through the Ginnie Mae program.”

That record provides pool-level aggregate information about the extent of loans and unpaid principal balance (UPB) dollars that are in low- and moderate-income areas, with a chart illustrating the percentage of loans, percentage of UPB of ESG-flagged pools and/or loans and totals of the total portfolio over the last 12 months.

McCargo said she sees the development as “a big deal,” saying it’s representative of the other ESG work being done more broadly at HUD and at other federal agencies.

“This is a first-of-its-kind social bond label,” she said. “It’s laying down a marker for impact investing. It really has been something that we have noted is driving demand for Ginnie Mae, especially from the international investor community, and we are being responsive to that now that we have the data, the capability and the tools to be able to make that much more clear in our disclosures going forward.”

Part of the reason McCargo sees the development as significant is because ESG is often interpreted very differently by various parties that may be involved in the investment space.

“Social is a new construct, especially in the fixed-income markets and in the mortgage-backed securities space,” she said. “We’re defining it in a way that gives the transparency to investors for them to decide if that’s how they want to think about social, again, serving low-to-moderate incomes, tribal communities, rural communities and serving senior citizens through our [reverse mortgage securities] program. So all the different elements of that, we are trying to really lead the way because we are naturally, and inherently a social impact company.”

Sam Valverde, principal EVP of Ginnie Mae, added that the new label is designed to increase transparency and communicate that Ginnie Mae can provide a social investment opportunity.

“We’re extremely proud of what we launched in February, which is on per-security level, we now can offer investors clear verifiable data on who is represented in the bonds that they’re buying,” Valverde said. “And that is privacy-protected. So, we’re offering it on a pool level, and you can tell now how much of any given bond is being made to a borrower who makes less than 80% of the area median income. We have the address and income information at origination, so we’re offering demonstrable data to investors in a privacy-sensitive way so they can really understand what impact and investment in Ginnie Mae securities has.”