Since being seized by the government during the financial crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac haven't been businesses so much as government-owned mortgage utilities. That status was supposed to be temporary, but three years later, lawmakers have shown little appetite for changing it.

Now Ed DeMarco, head of the government-sponsored enterprises' primary regulator, is increasingly agitating for Congress to get a move on. Conservatorship is creating "real risks" for Fannie and Freddie's ability to function as businesses in the future, DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, told industry members in a recent speech.

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