Financial Sector Assessment Program Update-Technical Note-Housing Finance

This paper presents a technical note on Mexico’s Financial Sector Assessment Program update. The Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal has successfully led a range of direct policy measures that have stimulated the development of the housing finance market. The government improved the legal environment for mortgage finance by passing reforms that reduced the average time to foreclosure from five years to two, by facilitating the reform of several state property registries and by facilitating mortgage securitization.


This paper presents a technical note on Mexico’s Financial Sector Assessment Program update. The Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal has successfully led a range of direct policy measures that have stimulated the development of the housing finance market. The government improved the legal environment for mortgage finance by passing reforms that reduced the average time to foreclosure from five years to two, by facilitating the reform of several state property registries and by facilitating mortgage securitization.

I. Technical Note Housing Finance

A. Overview

1. Since 2000, the government has adopted a range of policy measures, legal reforms, and institutional reforms that have increased residential mortgage lending by half, and established a sound footing for the further growth of stable private investment in housing finance. The government carried out many of the reforms connected with housing finance recommended in the 2001 FSAP. Notable successes were registered in connection to the role played by SHF in the building of the housing finance market and to major improvements in the policy environment for private sector lending, as discussed in the rest of this report and described in more detail Appendix I, which offers a side-by-side comparison of the recommendations and analysis of the 2001 FSAP and the actions of the government.

2. The SHF has successfully led a range of direct policy measures that have stimulated the development of the housing finance market. These included: funding the growth of mortgage SOFOLs, introducing new mortgage default insurance (MI) products, encouraging private sector investment in MI, supporting the securitization of mortgages with its financial guarantees, creating new property appraisal standards, and cooperating in other government-wide initiatives. The government improved the legal environment for mortgage finance by passing reforms that reduced the average time to foreclosure from five years to two, by facilitating the reform of several state property registries, and by facilitating mortgage securitization. At the same time, the government created CONAFOVI to coordinate policy, and redesigned many of its on-budget mortgage subsidies, making them more transparent and efficient. While to date, these measures have not produced as much lending as the housing provident funds—with INFONAVIT continuing to dominate the primary mortgage market—the measures have laid the groundwork for a sustainable and widespread expansion in lending by the private sector.

3. The development of MI, financial guarantees for securitization, and securitization itself are improving risk management and allocation within the financial sector. At the end of 2005, SHF provided default insurance for 23 percent of bank and SOFOL mortgages outstanding. Almost all SOFOL loans benefit from MI, and an increasing number of banks are purchasing it. Mortgages securitized by SOFOLs carry MI. Neither INFONAVIT nor FOVISSSTE buy MI for their loans. Securitization of mortgages has begun. Since 2003, 15 issues for a total of MXP 11.5 billion have come to market. Securitization has moved credit risk from the balance sheets of SOFOLs to those of insurance companies and AFOREs. Thanks to MI and securitization, in the case of another crisis, SOFOLs and MBS investors will be insulated in large part from credit losses, increasing the likelihood that they will more quickly contribute to the subsequent recovery, distinct from the experience of banks in the last crisis.

4. Loan terms have improved, and banks have shown a greater appetite for mortgage risk. Increased macroeconomic stability has led to lower interest rates and so improved mortgage affordability. The intermediation spread has fallen in mortgage lending, leading to a drop in nominal rates on mortgages of 4 and 5 percent, and maturities for fixed rate loans have lengthened from 15 to 20 years. Banks have returned to the mortgage lending after abandoning it in the wake of the peso crisis of 1995, now offering long maturity, fixed rate, low down-payment loans.

5. In spite of significant gains, housing production continues to fall short of the household formation rate. Public and private lenders achieved three-quarters of the government’s goal of 750,000 units per year, set by the administration to match the anticipated household formation rate. Since the goal was not fully achieved, the housing deficit of 4.2 million units will continue to grow, albeit more slowly than in the past. One ongoing effect of this shortfall will be continued demand for mortgages and for renovation credits for informally-built, substandard houses.

6. In spite of the recent surge in lending to moderate and upper-income households, a number of issues remain, particularly in terms of access by lower income and informal households. Lending reaches only a very few households that earn less than the median income. Although INFONAVIT and FOVISSSTE have carried out important reforms, each continues to provide interest rate subsidies, distorting primary markets. CONAFOVI has had very limited effects on property registration, further subsidy reforms, or the activities of institutions such as FONHAPO. The MBS market is small, and as a result of abundant bank liquidity, does not yet benefit from a steady stream of issues that would lead to liquid secondary trading or to further advances in efficiency and standardization. Large SOFOLs appear willing to wait until the 2009 deadline for the end of SHF funding to issue securities with any regularity or volume. Unless they act soon to tap alternative funding sources, the future of small independent mortgage SOFOLs is in question.

The market for housing finance

7. The system-wide mortgage portfolio grew 55 percent between 2000 and 2005, rising to 8.7 percent of GDP. In spite of the growth of mortgage SOFOLs and of greater bank lending, government lenders dominate the system, as was the case at the time of the 2001 FSAP. SOFOL participation in outstanding loans grew from 6.2 percent in 2000 to 17.3 percent in 2005. SOFOL lending carries no subsidy element, so the combined contribution of SOFOLs and banks can be considered market lending. Distinct from 2001, banks, which had withdrawn from the mortgage market in the wake of the crisis, have started lending again to middle and upper income segments. New bank lending made up 7.2 percent of houses financed in 2005 versus 0.2 percent in 2000. Thanks to its operational reforms and legal advantages, INFONAVIT increased its dominance of the primary mortgage market, growing from 48.8 percent of outstanding balances in 2000 to 59.9 percent at the end of 2005 (Figure 1).1

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Mortgage Lending by INFONAVIT Continues to Dominate the Market

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2007, 162; 10.5089/9781451825701.002.A001

Source: Banxico

8. Public and private lenders together financed 561,550 new housing units in 2005, coming closer to the 750,000 unit target than had been expected by many observers at the time of the 2001 FSAP (Table 1). While this represents a 42 percent growth over the number of units delivered in 2000, most of these public housing programs have suffered from severe financial difficulties in the past or are continuing to suffer losses (all but SHF). Others provide inefficient or inequitable subsidies (INFONAVIT, FOVISSSTE, FONHAPO lending programs, the OREVIs), and some have faced severe shortcomings in their capacity to deliver on their commitments (particularly FONHAPO in the delivery of PROSAVI subsidies, and the OREVIs in their overall organizational capacity). The sustainability of FONHAPO and OREVI programs is weak, relying on annual budget allocations. In the past, poor collection practices have compromised the sustainability of INFONAVIT, FOVISSSTE, FONHAPO, and the OREVIs.

Table 1.

Number of Credits Authorized by Source 2005

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Includes 17,904 credits from the program Apoyo INFONAVIT y 38,090 from the Cofinanciamiento program, each of which involves public-private partnerships between INFONAVIT, banks, and SOFOLs.

Of the credits originated, 4,356 were from PROSAVI and 50,093 from PROFIVI.

Not funded by SHF

Includes: ISSFAM (2,806 loans), PEMEX (4,728 loans), CFE (1,081 loans), PEFVM (3,587 loans), LFC(3,201 loans), PET (31,513 loans), HABITAT, A.C. (776 loans) y PROVIVAH (95 loans).

Refers to loans and subsidies that come from one or more institutions.

9. Loan terms have improved, and lenders are showing a greater appetite for risk, leading to improved housing affordability. In 2002, UDI loans were priced at inflation plus 11.73 percent, or an all-in nominal rate of about 17 percent for a 25 year term.2 In 2002, banks had just started offering peso loans at a fixed rate of between 15.5 and 17 percent for maturities between 10 and 15 years. By 2006, spreads and rates had fallen. The spread on UDI loans had dropped to 4 percent, for an all-in nominal yield of around 13.5 percent and banks were offering 20 year fixed rate loans at 13.5 percent and 15 year fixed rate loans at 11.1 percent. Banks and SOFOLs are now offering 90 percent and 95 percent loan to value (LTV) loans, increasingly with mortgage insurance from SHF. Higher LTV loans make housing more affordable by reducing down payment requirements. However, they cost more in interest over the life of the loan.

10. Loan quality has remained strong at SOFOLs and at banks, and has improved at the provident funds. NPLs at SOFOLs have risen to 4.5 percent, versus levels around 2 to 3 percent for SOFOLs in past years, and for banks now. This is not a disturbing level so long as they don’t rise further, and so long as demographic growth maintains pressure on housing demand and prices. SOFOLs lend to higher risk clients than do banks, and as their market position has matured and lending has grown, it is not surprising that defaults have risen somewhat. Also, SOFOLs charge more for their loans than do banks, reflecting the higher risk of their clientele. On a related note, NPLs at INFONAVIT have fallen to 8 percent from more than 30 percent in the late 1990s. FOVISSSTE also reports an 8 percent NPL rate, but its problems with information systems and financial reporting have led observers to question this improved number.

11. Via the SOFOLs, SHF maintained lending to moderate and upper income households in the wake of the peso crisis of 1995. The growth of funding to these sectors is critical for the development of financial intermediation, and for economic growth. About 20 percent of SOFOL lending is to informal income earners. Banks stopped lending for mortgages after the crisis, and returned to upper income, formal earner segments in 2002. In the absence of SOFOL lending, the only lenders to middle income families would have been INFONAVIT or FOVISSSTE, which lack the resources to completely satisfy market demand, and which by the terms of their charters may not reach informal households.

12. Low income households living in substandard housing are still not well served by formal sector institutions. An estimated 4.2 million households, or 16 percent of the population live in substandard conditions. Of these households, most earn less than four monthly minimum wages (MMW)3, and eighty percent work in the informal sector, not paying income taxes or participating in any formal pension system. That leaves 20 percent of low income, poorly housed families with a member that is affiliated with either INFONAVIT or FOVISSSTE.4 Since many affiliates earning less than 4 MMW cannot afford a mortgage on the newly built low-cost units that are available, relatively few are served. In 2005, INFONAVIT lent to 3.4 percent of its affiliates earning less than 4 MMW, providing them with 145,133 mortgages. Beyond INFONAVIT, banks lend to households earning above 10 MMW, and SOFOLs lend above 5 MMW. Informal sector households earning less than the median of 5 MMW generally have no contact with the formal financial sector.

13. Given the reentry of the banks, SHF has recently begun to move its funding targets further down market. The median household income funded in 2005 was 12.3 monthly minimum wages, versus 14.1 in 2004 (Figure 2). SHF also started a pilot program in 2005 of lending to microfinance institutions that lend for housing renovations. The households served by these institutions are typically in the informal sector, earning less than 4 MMW. They often occupy self-built houses of substandard quality, frequently with limited or absent formal property rights. The micro renovation loans allow the owners to upgrade the structures over time, improving their living conditions in stages.

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

SHF Total Portfolio Income Distribution

(Percentage of Loans by Income Segment, 2004 vs. 2005)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2007, 162; 10.5089/9781451825701.002.A001

Source: SHF

14. The government should continue its promising efforts to expand the availability of savings products and microfinance loans to finance the renovation of self-built, substandard housing. About 15 percent of Mexican households have a savings account.5 The government has sought to increase participation in savings programs with its reforms to Bansefi. SHF, INFONAVIT, and Bansefi have cooperated on savings products that would help informal households to qualify for credit. While these efforts have produced very limited results to date, they are working with populations that show low levels of trust for institutions and that have low levels of education. These programs should be continued and expanded. As the SOFOLs with SHF support have demonstrated the capacity of households earning more than seven minimum wages to repay mortgage loans, and so attracted private banks to lend to these segments, government programs could demonstrate the viability of segments earning less than five minimum wages, which make up half of the population. Micro loans for housing renovation are growing rapidly in Peru, Bolivia, and Guatemala, and SHF has begun to provide lines of credit to micro finance institutions. Financial cooperative have proved to be an important source of credit to low income households in Guatemala and Paraguay. SHF or other agencies could foster the growth of cooperatives, with reasonable standards for financial strength and stability.

15. There are no programs to support the development of rental housing, which could be an important alternative for low-income households. Government programs have focused almost exclusively on the acquisition of new owner-occupied housing. While there are some programs for renovation, 83 percent of credits financed the purchase of houses, most of which are single-family residences, as opposed to apartments. Existing financing programs, in combination with long-standing problems with access to developable land, have contributed to suburban sprawl and have had negative impacts on infrastructure and lifestyle, such as heavier traffic densities and long commute times.

Overall advances since the 2001 FSAP

16. Government policies have sought to amplify the role of the private sector since the 2001 FSAP. The national government has limited influence over the states in their processes and laws on the enforcement of contracts and in the registration and transfer of title. Through CONAFOVI, SHF, and INFONAVIT, the national government has sought to spur improvements in the practice of state and local governments, while at the same time pursuing legal changes that would extend nationwide.

  • Improvements in the legal framework for mortgage lending were passed in the Miscelánea de Garantías package in 2003. These reduced the average expected time to foreclose to two years from five. While this represents an important improvement, expected foreclosure time should be further shortened to six months or less. Studies in Europe and the United States have shown that regions with shorter and less expensive foreclosure processes benefit from a greater supply of mortgages at lower rates of interest.

  • The process to register or transfer real property ownership remains expensive in many states. This reduces liquidity and value in the housing market, and hinders the development of a market in existing housing. CONAFOVI and SHF have been working with the states to establish a framework to measure the efficiency of their property registries, and improve it.

17. Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal (SHF) has largely fulfilled the recommendations set forth in the 2001 FSAP. See Annex 1 for a side-by-side comparison of the 2001 FSAP and the measures taken by the government, including SHF. These included the creation of a focused charter and operations that are more transparent than was the norm for development banks in 2001. FOVI’s funding activities were translated to a newly founded development bank known as SHF, which was authorized to start operations in February, 2002. The previous FSAP recommended that SHF operate as a limited purpose finance company rather than as a development bank as was commonly understood. SHF is legally mandated to promote the development of the primary and secondary mortgage markets, with a special focus on the social sector. As such, SHF funds its operations via debt issuances through the money markets with associated derivatives.

18. SHF’s initial, transparent governance structure will soon be restructured as the company is split into three entities: (i) a financial guarantee firm, (ii) a mortgage insurance firm, and (iii) a development bank. As recommended in the 2001 FSAP, SHF’s Board of Directors has been composed of public sector representatives and independent members. SHF has professional management dedicated to banking areas, including finance, risk management, credit and product sales and promotion. Like other development banks, SHF is subject to CNBV supervision for financial statements, accountability, and prudential regulation under international accounting standards. The upcoming split into two entities will maintain independent board representation while allowing the firm to segregate capital for its distinct business lines.

19. As recommended by the 2001 FSAP, SHF operates as a second tier institution and as a catalyst for private mortgage market development on commercial principles. While SOFOL loan balances have been growing at more than 45 percent per year, their contribution looks small in comparison to the outstanding loan portfolios of state institutions. However, SHF has created avenues for private sector investment that are critical for the future growth of the mortgage finance system. SHF prices, reserves, and sets capital for all of products so as to cover losses and to provide a market-related return on equity. These programs represent a prudent and creative use of the government guarantee:

  • Through its credit lines to SOFOLs, SHF has maintained lending to and competition for middle income clients, allowing the SOFOLs to grow at rates of between 45 and 63 percent per year. (Figure 3) Since two of the larger SOFOLs were acquired by banks, SHF’s contribution to SOFOL financing has declined.

  • SHF has developed a new mortgage default insurance (MI) product that enables lenders to mitigate the risk of higher loan-to-value ratio lending. MI promotes financial system stability by allowing for greater distribution of risk among system participants. The new product was designed to avoid the many problems that occurred with FOVI’s pari passu product, including a more carefully monitored underwriting process, and providing a more clearly defined process for making claims. Between 2002 and 2005, MI risk in force grew from MXP 7 billion, for 58.6 thousand loans, to MXP 19 billion, covering 246.4 thousand loans, close to half the originations in 2005. More than three-quarters of the insurance in force is the new MI product, which covers 25 percent of the defaulted loan balance in the case of default. This reduced exposure (in comparison to 50 percent of losses under the pari passu product) allows SHF to extend coverage to a much greater number of loans while reducing moral hazard.

  • SHF has pursued a conscious effort to attract private sector competition for its MI product. SHF sponsored legislation that passed the congress in early 2006 that permits private companies to offer MI. As its MI exposure has grown, SHF has purchased reinsurance from providers from the United States, providing these companies with exposure to and an increased understanding of local markets.

  • SHF has sponsored amendments to the insurance and other laws that would permit private companies to offer MI. These amendments passed in April of 2006. With the passage of the law, the companies that are providing reinsurance to SHF are planning to enter the market and directly provide MI.

  • SHF provides timely payment guarantees for securitizations, for a price, enhancing market access for issuers. To date, SHF has provided such guarantees on four issues.

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

Amounts Loaned by SHF/Sofoles


Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2007, 162; 10.5089/9781451825701.002.A001

The housing provident funds INFONAVIT and FOVISSSTE

20. As combined savings, subsidy, and housing finance instruments, INFONAVIT and FOVISSSTE have important limits and internal contradictions. Each institution has a long history of financial losses that resulted from politically-influenced lending and collection policies. These losses have been borne by account holders in the form of real returns that have turned positive only in the past five years. Neither fund has lived up to its potential to lend to a plurality of members. Each has had to struggle with means to ration credits to members as fairly as possible. In a country where the majority of households earn informal incomes, these institutions reach only the formally employed. Even as governance reforms have been achieved for one of the institutes, the risk remains that future governments will return to politically-influenced financial policies. As private sector mortgage lending has developed, it is now feasible to consider removing the links between retirement savings and housing lending.

21. INFONAVIT is provided with advantages by law that restrict the capacity of the private sector to compete with it, even in low income segments. Employee and employer contributions provide a safety net from credit losses. During the 1990s, INFONAVIT survived substantial defaults by relying on contributions from member wages and by paying a negative real return on savings. It is the only lender that is able to deduct loan payments directly from salaries. INFONAVIT does not pay income taxes.

22. INFONAVIT has made major improvements in its operations, transparency, and corporate governance. It has implemented new, more efficient automated systems and business processes for mortgage origination and servicing. By reducing its NPL ratio from over 30 percent in the late 1990s to 8 percent in 2005, and by originating according to industry standards, the operational reforms have enabled INFONAVIT to increase lending, dramatically improve its cash flows, and pay a return on savings that is comparable to the return paid by AFOREs. It has adopted international accounting standards and made itself subject to CNBV oversight. As a result of changes to its law passed in April, 2005, INFONAVIT has improved corporate governance, establishing committees for risk management, auditing, and for strategic policy that include senior external professionals.

23. INFONAVIT has widened its cooperation with the private sector, providing its members with the ability to better leverage their INFONAVIT savings accounts. Via the Cofinancing product, INFONAVIT members may simultaneously originate the purchase of a house with two credits, one from INFONAVIT and one from a private lender. With Apoyo INFONAVIT, households may use their INFONAVIT savings account as down payment for a loan originated by another lender.

24. In recent years, INFONAVIT has targeted its lending down market. Of the 13 million members of INFONAVIT, 10.5 million have never received a credit. Of these nonrecipients, 91 percent earn less than 7 MMW. Between 2002 and 2005, 76 percent of the 1.3 million loans that INFONAVIT originated went to individuals earning 7 MMW or less, a segment that is lightly served by SOFOLs, and that is not served by banks. This is positive in that the cross subsidy between lower income savers that lack the resources to borrow and upper income borrowers has been reduced. Also, given that banks and SOFOLs serve upper-income INFONAVIT members, it makes sense to use more of INFONAVIT’s resources to address underserved markets.

25. Due to legal constraints, INFONAVIT has not been able to change its product characteristics. By law, its loans remain linked to an index of wage inflation. By the choice of its board, INFONAVIT prices by spreads over the wage inflation index that vary by income category, cross-subsidizing borrowers in lower income segments. (Table 2.) Given that wage inflation ran about 3 percent last year, INFONAVIT loans to individuals earning more than 5 MMW cost a nominal 12 percent. This is somewhat lower than the most comparable product, an UDI loan offered by a SOFOL, which is linked to consumer inflation plus a spread, currently resulting in about a 13.5 percent annual nominal rate. INFONAVIT’s nominal 12 percent somewhat higher than the fixed rate on 20 year bank loans to higher income borrowers (about 11 percent). But INFONAVIT and commercial banks do not compete. Borrowers with the income to qualify for a commercial bank loan are able to either borrow on their own or use INFONAVIT’s cofinancing products and rely primarily on a private sector credit. As long as INFONAVIT de-emphasizes the upper income market, then the more important competition is with SOFOLs, with a more comparable product (UDI loans) and common income segments, between 5 and 7 MMW.

Table 2.

INFONAVIT Lending Spreads

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26. INFONAVIT’s cross-subsidies represent an allocation of wealth from net savers to borrowers. Most net savers are low income. Subsidies to low-income borrowers reduce the ability of INFONAVIT to pay interest on the savings accounts of its members. Since

many low-income members lack the income to support a mortgage loan, they effectively cross-subsidize higher earning members that are able to borrow.

27. INFONAVIT’s securitization program requires transparency, advanced systems, and to be sustainable will require market-based prices. Since March, 2004, the institute has brought five issues to market, for a total of MXP 5.2 billion, representing 1.3 percent of outstanding mortgage credits. For any institution to carry out a successful securitization program over time, it needs automated systems and business processes that permit it to quickly and accurately extend and service a large number of individual credits, and administer the bonds resulting from the securitization. On the one hand, INFONAVIT’s securitization program acts as an impetus for the modernization of its systems and processes. On the other hand, the securitizations have been expensive, requiring over-collateralizations of 18 and 23 percent, which is high by international standards, and represents a cost of financing for the institute. The over-collateralization required for each transaction should be reduced as INFONAVIT improves its track record for credit risk management. In addition, the over collateralization and cost of each transaction would be reduced if the underlying loans were denominated in pesos instead of being indexed to the minimum wage, and were priced at a spread that reflected INFOVAVIT’s risks. The minimum wage index is not commonly used in the financial system, and so the translation to a peso-denominated bond is expensive for INFONAVIT, and adds to the required over collateralization.

28. Operational reforms at INFONAVIT are positive and important, but they do not resolve the internal conflicts between its roles as lender, pension fund, and subsidy provider. There is an inherent conflict between maximizing returns for savers and providing low-cost mortgage finance through cross-subsidies. By law, INFONAVIT is not permitted to diversify investments to maximize returns for members subject to an agreed upon risk tolerance, as any other pension fund would do. Its subsidy programs eliminate income that would be available to nonborrowing members as returns on deposits.

29. INFONAVIT pricing is closer to market than it used to be, but even in lower income segments it should establish a market-based lending rate. Since other lenders do not operate actively in segments below 7 MMW, INFONAVIT correctly claims that there is no market lending rate in these segments. However, the lending spreads that INFONAVIT collects on these loans obviously have little to do with credit risk or other calculations. (See Table 2.). Rather than using an arbitrary spread, a market rate could be estimated by adding to the risk free rate a spread that compensates on a net present value basis for expected and unexpected credit risk and other costs. As INFONAVIT successfully lends in this sector at rates that better reflect the costs of private sector lenders, it could lead those private sector lenders down market.

30. If INFONAVIT is to subsidize lower income households, it should provide the present value of those subsidies in a lump sum at the time a mortgage is originated rather than providing a reduced interest rate. A lump sum subsidy would be more transparent, as INFONAVIT would be required to show the subsidy as an expense on its income statement. Under current practice, interest rate subsidies are less obvious, because they show up as lower net income rather than being stated explicitly in the financial statements. In economic terms, each type of subsidy reduces the amount of income available to pay on deposits. Providing the subsidy as a lump sum would also facilitate coordination of these subsidies with other, on-budget subsidies currently administered by FONHAPO. Finally, providing the subsidy as a lump sum and pricing loans at market would create loans that can serve as collateral for securities at a lower discount than subsidized loans.

31. Given INFONAVIT’s reduced reliance on the salary contributions of its members, these contributions should be redirected to the Afore system. In the past, weak collections made INFONAVIT dependent on its salary contributions in order to survive. As a result of reforms, this has changed, and with improved collections, INFONAVIT predicts that between 2006 and 2010, salary contributions will fall from 39.9 percent to 27.1 percent of cash inflows. At the same time, portfolio collections will rise from 52.4 percent to 61.8 percent of inflows.6 Eventually, portfolio collections will overwhelm salary contributions. Given this structural change, the salary contributions should be phased out altogether so as to provide an incentive for INFONAVIT to continue managing its portfolio well. These forced savings could be redirected to AFOREs or made voluntary.

32. INFONAVIT’s authority to collect loans via payroll debits should be given to all other mortgage lenders. INFONAVIT is the only lender that is able to deduct loan payments directly from member salaries. This capacity could be extended to other lenders, putting them on a similar footing to INFONAVIT and reducing their credit risk.

33. FOVISSSTE has made much less progress than INFONAVIT, but it is developing new automated systems and streamlining its business processes. In positive terms, FOVISSSTE now uses the operations network of SOFOLs to originate mortgages. It is investing in systems and reforms. It allocates mortgages using a lottery rather than internal political processes. Until recently, FOVISSSTE was required to set the size of its lending program as part of the annual federal government budget. In 2005, the law was changed to free FOVISSSTE from the federal budgeting process so that it may lend directly from its own resources.

34. The results of FOVISSSTE’s reform efforts to date are very limited. FOVISSSTE’s corporate governance has not advanced. Unlike INFONAVIT, it has not developed the management or external audit committees, and unlike INFONAVIT, it has not been made subject to CNBV oversight or international accounting standards. FOVISSSTE’s financial statements are audited with qualifications, some of which stem from the inability to reconcile figures between its disparate automated systems. Management has difficulty providing basic data on the business and the performance of the mortgage portfolio.

35. FOVISSSTE provides much deeper interest rate subsidies than does INFONAVIT, but its effect on the market is limited due to its more restricted membership base. Like INFONAVIT, FOVISSSTE mortgages are linked to wage inflation. FOVISSSTE spreads range between 4 and 6 percent over the index, substantially lower than INFONAVIT’s topmost rate of 9 percent. FOVISSSTE reported 2.1 million members at the end of 2005, of which 1.3 million had not received a loan. FOVISSSTE membership will grow only to the extent that federal government employment grows. Since FOVISSSTE members are all federal government employees, the income distribution is much more restricted than that of INFONAVIT or the population as a whole, with relatively few affiliates earning less than 7 MMW.

36. FOVISSSTE should be made subject to regulation and governance as a financial institution. FOVISSSTE should be subject to supervision by the CNBV, and be subject to banking standards for financial reporting, governance, internal controls, and financial risk management. FOVISSSTE’s subsidies should be made on an up-front basis so as to be more transparent, and to facilitate coordination with the government’s on-budget subsidy policies.

Mortgage securitization has begun with some growing pains

37. The start of a mortgage-backed securities (MBS) market is an important and fundamental achievement. Securitization of mortgages enables a virtuous circle of savings and investment that includes individuals, banks, SOFOLs, and institutional investors such as Afores, and insurance companies. Securitization enables the transfer of long term mortgage credit and market risk to investors best able to bear it, and has led to lower mortgage interest rates in many countries. Lenders brought MXP 6.125 billion to market in 2005 in eight transactions, 25 percent more in peso volume than in 2004. Since 2003, 15 issues for a total of MXP 11.5 billion have come to market. While an important start, this represents only 0.71 percent of the balance of credits outstanding in the system at the end of 2005. Banks have not yet issued MBS, as they still have sufficient liquidity from deposits, and their mortgage portfolios are small in relation to their balance sheets, even with 30 percent annual growth in lending. Many of the smaller SOFOLs have not yet securitized, lacking the required volumes to do so on their own, and so far showing no willingness to develop a joint approach. Larger SOFOLs, such as Su Casita and Metrofinanciera have each brought several deals to market, but still are reliant on SHF for the bulk of their funding.

38. Mortgage securities should play an important role in risk management and stability for all lenders within the next two to three years, as portfolios grow and SHF’s financing sunset nears. Currently, bank mortgage portfolios are small in relation to their large and liquid balance sheets. SOFOLs find it preferable to fund with SHF credits. However, the financial structure of dual-index and fixed-rate loans and SHF’s 2009 sunset for direct funding will eventually drive capital market funding for mortgages.7 Large SOFOLs may be expected to wait until closer to 2009 to go to the trouble and expense of regular MBS issuance. Su Casita, the largest independent SOFOL, has already brought several issues to market, although it still funds the bulk of its balance sheet with SHF credits. Metrofinanciera has based its business model on securitization of bridge loans and of mortgages. At the extreme, larger SOFOLs could wait until just before SHF’s sunset before issuing in large volumes, as outstanding SHF credits will preserve their lower government-backed financing rate beyond the sunset date. Bank-owned SOFOLs will be able to fund UDI and fixed rate loans with bank deposits for some time (another two years in the judgment of one SOFOL manager) before creating basis and term mismatches large enough to require mitigation through securitization. The banks themselves predominately originate fixed rate nominal peso loans. These create a maturity mismatch for their deposit base, for which either securitization or mortgage bonds would serve as an ideal mitigant.

39. As during any boom period, pressure to reduce costs and cut corners on credit origination persists. The main distribution channel for residential mortgage credit is the property developer. The faster that the developer sells the houses in a given development, the sooner it can repay its bridge credit from the SOFOL and redeploy its capital in another project. As they complete a significant portion of a given development, developers set up sales and financing offices in the developments, and as they line up would-be home buyers, the developers take the mortgage applications. The developer has a strong incentive to minimize the costs and maximize the speed of the mortgage origination process, and it has no exposure to the quality of the resulting credit. Larger developers have market power relative to smaller SOFOLs. If small SOFOLs do not accept a given package of loans, even if documentation is deficient, the developer can take the package to another SOFOL that needs the business.

40. Questions have been raised over the quality of the process and the nature of the involvement of auditors and credit rating agencies. The role of accounting standard letters and rating agencies in a new securitization market can be distinct from that in an established market. In any securitization market, it is essential to establish investor confidence in the integrity of the process. With one pool for which SHF was asked to provide MI, it found that fully 30 percent of the loans suffered from deficiencies in documentation ranging from missing credit bureau reports to missing or deficient appraisals, and loan currency denominations distinct from that of the rest of the pool. On this transaction, the auditor had reviewed a small sample of loans that were not eventually included in the securitized pool. The rating agency did not review any loan files, and the institutions that were offering credit enhancement did not review any files. Issuers and regulators should consider standards for the inclusion of due diligence firms to review the files of the loans that make up collateral pools.

41. Covered bonds could prove to be an attractive alternative to securitization for banks and larger SOFOLs, but specialized legislation would be required to establish ring-fencing of collateral. Covered bonds would provide another means for lenders to match fund their mortgage portfolios and create attractive assets for institutional investors. Unlike securitization, covered bonds would permit lenders to keep their most attractive assets on their balance sheet. Covered bonds could also be a simpler alternative to securitization. Several of the foreign banks operating in Mexico have experience in issuing covered bonds in other markets, in particular Spain. Legislation would be required to establish the senior rights of bondholders in case of bankruptcy of the bank.

The future of SOFOLs

42. With the end of the SHF credit line approaching in 2009, one would expect to see more tangible signs of strategies to fund themselves beyond that date. Instead, large SOFOLs such as Su Casita have securitized a relatively small portion of their portfolios, and small SOFOLs have as yet failed to develop any means to gather portfolios large enough to merit the cost of securitization. Smaller institutions that lack adequate scale in their operations will have to either change their business model, be acquired by a bank, or go out of business. Large independent SOFOLs (Su Casita, Metrofinanciera) can continue to operate with securitizations after SHF ceases funding. Some SOFOLs will continue as units of banks (e.g., Hipotecaria National). While SOFOLs will be able to originate new credits from SHF right up to the deadline, one would expect more to be developing programs of similar, regularly timed issuances. Such programs serve to establish market confidence in the capacity of an institution to provide regular supply of issues. To establish an issuance program, SOFOLs might be expected to start now with periodic regular issues that make up an increasing portion of new originations so that when the SHF stops lending, the SOFOL is able to replace SHF funding for all of its marginal lending.

43. It is important not to postpone the sunset of the SHF credit line. The point of creating the mortgage SOFOLs with SHF support was to create an industry and then let it operate on its own, funded by securitization or direct investments from private shareholders. Long term funding by state banks does not constitute a sustainable market. A SOFOL business strategy that depends solely on the SHF mortgage credit line should not be considered viable for operating beyond 2009.

44. As it did with construction lending, SHF should consider providing positive and negative incentives for SOFOLs to wean themselves from its mortgage funding lines in advance of the 2009 subset. For its construction loan guarantees to larger SOFOLs, SHF reduced its guarantee coverage in stages, providing bank lenders with an incentive to develop expertise in construction lending, and providing SOFOLs with an incentive to develop their capacity to borrow from banks.8 SHF is working with the industry on a facility to collect portfolios from smaller SOFOLs that would provide the scale economies required to make a securitization worthwhile. To complement this positive incentive, SHF could provide interim deadlines for reducing its funding lines as alternative sources present themselves.

The changing regulatory regime for SOFOLs

45. The SOFOMES law will reduce prudential regulation costs for SOFOLs, reduce moral hazard of the government, and reduce the legal costs of market entry. The new law, passed in February of 2006, creates a new legal entity, Sociedad de Objecto Financiero Multiple (SOFOME), that may lend for any purpose and that is not supervised by the CNBV, but that may not accept deposits. In essence, the new law liberalizes lending and factoring, and eliminates prudential regulatory requirements for all lenders that are funded by investors and banks. It reduces supervisory costs and potential moral hazard for the government by eliminating CNBV oversight over SOFOMEs.

46. It is important to further develop market regulatory institutions such as auditors, rating agencies, disclosure requirements and the risk management capacities of institutional investors. The original set of recommendations offered by the IMF technical assistance report regarding the deregulation of SOFOLs envisioned the deregulation in the context of a number of improvements to issuer disclosures, bank regulation, and securities regulation, only some of which have come to fruition.9 (Box 1.)

The IMF TA Report on Regulation of SOFOLs and the SOFOME Law

The IMF report recommended relying primarily on market regulation for SOFOLs that are not funded by development banks (the SHF), and contractual regulation by public banks for SOFOLs that are publicly funded. The report couches its recommendations in terms the motivations for regulation. These would be to address a failure of the financial system in terms of: 1) anticompetitive behavior; 2) market misconduct; 3) information asymmetry; or 4) systemic instability. The first two give rise to a need for market regulation, the second two to prudential regulation. The report notes that non-publicly funded SOFOLs are financed by institutional investors that should be able to protect their interests, that they do not rely much on the historic “thin” official oversight, that their contagion risk seems limited, and so they should be deregulated to limit moral hazard and reduce supervisory costs. The report recommends that CNBV’s prudential oversight role vis-à-vis publicly funded SOFOLs be delegated to the public banks. The report makes a series of recommendations regarding improved disclosures, improved effectiveness of corporate bankruptcy and resolution procedures, elimination of licensing and minimum paid-up capital requirements, and deregulation of publicly-funded SOFOLs as CNBV becomes satisfied with their contractual oversight by public banks.

The SOFOME law achieves the broad goals that the IMF recommended, albeit without the phased-in approval by CNBV that the report envisioned and without the distinction of public versus non-public funding. The law eliminates restrictions on leasing, factoring, or extension of credit by commercial companies while providing them with the same tax advantages and legal powers granted to institutions regulated by CNBV and the Treasury. These tax advantages include an exemption from the asset tax and the value-added tax on financial transactions. SOFOMEs will also retain the legal capacity to act as trustees.

47. The contractual prudential regulation of publicly-funded mortgage SOFOLs by SHF as a public bank exists, but in the context of persistent confusion on the part of SOFOLs regarding SHF’s role. Given SHF’s history in licensing, promoting, and regulating SOFOLs, and its involvement in the resolution of two failed mortgage SOFOLs, many market operators have long viewed SHF as their primary regulator. In the late 1990s, SHF played a direct and active role in selecting and licensing SOFOL operators and investors. In the absence of active regulation by the CNBV, SHF imposed risk-based capital rules for the SOFOLs that it funds. In two recent SOFOL failures, SHF stepped in to engineer purchases of the institutions as the primary creditor and effectively the sole source of the funding required to survive. It will be a challenge for SHF to establish more distinctly its role as financial counterpart rather than the implicit roles of promoter, licenser, and regulator that it has borne in the past. Important in this process will be SHF and the SOFOL industry’s respective efforts to tap alternative funding for smaller SOFOLs, or SOFOMEs, as they will eventually be known.

48. Despite progress made through CONAFOVI, the government still lacks a well-functioning, centralized, consistent policy for housing subsidies. There is a persistent shortage of credit for segments earning less than four minimum salaries particularly for informal households. INFONAVIT and FOVISSSTE are the most important sources of subsidies for housing, but are the least fair, efficient, or transparent. Nor do they reach the informal sector. Without budgetary authority CONAFOVI cannot manage the national system of subsidies. FONHAPO continues to suffer from serious defects in the capacity to implement programs. Given the success in the median income segments, it is important for the government to use its institutions to reach the bulk of the population that earns less than four minimum wages.


49. INFONAVIT / FOVISSSTE—Remove the links between savings systems, housing finance, and housing subsidies.

  • Phase out the 5 percent employee contribution or transfer it to the pension (Afore) system.

  • Level the playing field—give payroll discount capacity to banks and SOFOLs, impose banking regulatory rules on each.

  • The CNBV should examine the cost/benefit of INFONAVIT securitizations to date to be sure that they add value to the institution given their pricing and the required level of over collateralization.

  • Set market and risk-based loan interest rates for loans to all income segments.

  • If subsidies are to continue, provide them in the form of up front subsidies to households that require them, not to exceed the present value of existing interest rate subsidies.

  • Eliminate the definition in law of the credit products that each institute may offer.

  • Establish in law the supervision of the two institutions by the CNBV.

  • Use the market position of the institutes to work with more states to promote reforms to property registries and title transfer and registration procedures.

  • Establish in law that SHF and INFONAVIT should focus their lending on households with incomes lower than the median.

50. INFONAVIT and FOVISSSTE should consider purchasing MI for their loans, to benefit from increased risk sharing in the system, and to submit their origination standards to the scrutiny of a third party.

51. Securitization—the CNBV should review itself or have the standard setting agencies look at the methodology of rating agencies and auditors with respect to securitization. Consider norms that reflect the level of development of this market such as requirements to use diligence firms to review collateral documentation.

52. Develop a common policy on subsidies and access to credit for low income households that includes CONAFOVI, FONHAPO, INFONAVIT, and FOVISSSTE.

53. Use the power and market presence of CONAFOVI, SHF, INFONAVIT, and FOVISSSTE to pressure the states and localities to press ahead with reforms to the legal infrastructure for primary markets, including foreclosure processes, land and title registration and transfer, mortgage registration and transfer. Foreclosure time should be reduced to six months or less, in the presence of reasonable consumer protections.

54. SHF should continue its efforts to promote microfinance for housing to benefit households earning between 1 and 3 MMW.

55. The government should develop programs to encourage rental housing as a solution for very low income households. The same types of in-kind subsidies that have been provided to individual households in the form of serviced lots could be provided to developers of low-cost rental housing.

56. Through law and regulation, the government should enable the issue of covered bonds by banks and SOFOLs (SOFOMEs) as an alternative to securitization.

Appendix I. Side-by-Side Comparison of 2001FSAP Findings and Recommendations

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At the time of writing, data was not available for FOVISSSTE balances prior to 2005, so they are not presented in this graph. The total portfolio for the end of 2005 was MXP 777.4 billio, of which approximately MXP 55 billion was held by FOVISSSTE, MXP 428.5 billion by INFONAVIT, MXP 116.7 billion for the SOFOLs, and MXP 173.2 billion for the banks. While the total stock of bank loans is larger than that of SOFOLs, much of these balances come from loans originated before 1995. The SOFOLs have lent more on the margin in recent years than have banks.


The UDI (Unidad de Inversion) is a monthly moving average of the consumer inflation rate.


Mortgage lenders segment the market in terms of multiples of the monthly minimum wage. The National Commission on Minimum Wages each year sets several minimum wages by geographical area. For 2006, the monthly median wages for large urban areas was MXP 1,460, or USD 133 at 11 MXP/USD. According to INEGI’s 2004 National Survey of Incomes and Expenses, the median household income was just under 5 MMW.


Source: ENEGHI statistics, analysis by McKenzie Consultants.


Caskey, John P., Clemente Ruiz Duran, Tova Maria Solo, “The Urban Unbanked in Mexico and the United States.”


INFONAVIT Financial Plan 2006-2010, page 115.


By law, SHF’s direct financing of lender portfolios ends in 2009. SHF’s privilege to issue government-backed bonds ends in 2013. UDI loans are linked to two indexes: payments are linked to an index of wage inflation, while the principal is linked to the UDI. Lenders generally use a basis swap offered by SHF to convert the payment stream to UDIs, and eliminating basis risk within the loans. SOFOLs that fund with SHF eliminate term risk in funding because SHF lending is fully matched to loan terms. Banks holders of UDI mortgages accept basis and term risk, as their deposits are denominated in nominal pesos.


This has worked for larger SOFOLs, but the smaller ones that still benefit from 100 percent construction loan guarantees have predictably taken more risk, and in two cases, have suffered important losses.


“Oversight Framework of the Mexican Nonbank Financial Institutions (SOFOLES)”, Alain Ize, Eva Gutierrez, Ursula Ciaravolo, Anastasios Corolis, February, 2005.

Mexico: Financial Sector Assessment Program Update-Technical Note-Housing Finance
Author: International Monetary Fund
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    Mortgage Lending by INFONAVIT Continues to Dominate the Market

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    SHF Total Portfolio Income Distribution

    (Percentage of Loans by Income Segment, 2004 vs. 2005)

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    Amounts Loaned by SHF/Sofoles