Fannie Mae CEO speaks at Burnham Moores event

Originally published in University of San Diego Student Newspaper, The Vista

March 9, 2016

Students and CEO’s alike gathered at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront to participate in the Burnham-Moores 15th Annual Real Estate Conference this past Thursday, Mar. 3. Burnham-Moores, USD’s Center for Real Estate, invited a wide array of industry experts to speak and converse with other local real estate professionals. Mike Williams, President and CEO of government-sponsored enterprise Fannie Mae, took the most important position as keynote speaker, delivering a summary of the enterprise’s confident outlook for the primary and secondary mortgage markets’ rebound in the coming years.


Dr. Mark Riedy, Executive Director of the Burnham-Moores Center, welcomed and introduced the 205 registered guests of the conference to keynote speaker Williams. Williams, who has been with Fannie Mae since the nation was in the midst of the housing crisis in 2009, started his speech on a positive note.


“The real estate industry is back on track,” said Williams. Fannie Mae, as Williams referenced, plays a huge part in the resolution of the housing crisis. The government-sponsored enterprise is one of several that provide the primary mortgage market the liquidity necessary to keep banks and other lenders originating new mortgages. Fannie Mae alone has provided nearly one and a half trillion in capital to fund affordable mortgages across the United States, and they are achieving this by Williams’ idea of “a new realism - a return to common sense.”


Williams also described the long term goals of the enterprise, stating hopeful figures of growth and a movement towards a housing rebound. Fannie Mae is determined to see growth of one and a half million households per year in the next decade, a number that is hopeful but attainable. Williams also mentioned that the company is the leading provider of capital to multi-family housing, which is already seeing a recovery from the housing crisis.


The conference also showcased important local players in businesses related to real estate, including Jim Waring of CleanTECH, Mel Katz of Manpower Inc. and Bob Watkins of R.J. Watkins and Company. Each of these companies is based out of San Diego, and each representative of the company discussed both with the attendees of the conference and each other about the best ways to push a full recovery in the local region and California as a whole.


Katz, for instance, discussed how Manpower Inc. plans on aiding job growth in San Diego, which in turn increases demand for both commercial and residential real estate. By providing skill-specific training, Katz hopes to fill a gap between the unemployed looking for jobs and the skills needed that keep them out of those positions.


Watkins was similarly focused on improving the job situation in San Diego. “A recovery in jobs really hasn’t happened,” said Watkins. He proposed asserting the need for change directly to members of California’s government, expressing that the source of the law is a great portion of the trouble seen throughout the state’s real estate industry.


Dr. Pyke, head of the School of Business, was also in attendance to introduce Dr. Charles Tu, the first holder of the Daniel F. Mulvihill Professorship in Commercial Real Estate. In addition to being a professor at USD, Tu is credited to being instrumental towards the development of the real estate minor and major programs at the school. Unfortunately, Tu was ill and could not attend.


The conference continued with a wider array of topics, including lending, investing and capital markets, analyses of specific sectors and workouts. 


USD had a significant presence at the conference, not only in its sponsorship but also in its student body attendance. Most importantly, students Molly Jones and Justin Shifrin accepted recognition for receiving the Burnham-Moores Daniel B. Woodruff Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship memorializes Dan Woodruff, a passionate USD graduate of the class of 98, who passed away in 2000 to cancer. The scholarship is issued by the Burnham-Moores center to the most outstanding students pursuing careers in real estate.


Students from real estate classes at USD were also present. Akhil Israni, a real estate major, commented on what he intended to get out of attending the conference.


“I’m hoping to develop a sharper image of where the local [real estate] market is headed in different commercial sectors. Networking is an added benefit to these functions as well, and I’m hoping to meet possible contacts for future business opportunities,” said Israni.


Speakers at the Burnham-Moores all seemed to have the same positive attitude about the future of the housing markets and the real estate industry in general, which is a positive sign both locally and nationally. Fannie Mae CEO Williams closed out the day with a strong note, saying “everyone loses when a family is faced with foreclosure.”