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What is a Mortgage Subsidy Bond?

Defining Mortgage Subsidy Bonds

Mortgage Subsidy Bonds, also referred to as Mortgage Revenue Bonds (MRBs), are a type of municipal bond utilized to fund mortgage relief programs and refinancing arrangements at the state or municipal government level. These bonds, often associated with specific loan programs, are designed to provide relief to certain types of borrowers by minimizing or even entirely foregoing interest charges, similar to certain student loan schemes. The capital required to support these mortgage relief programs is generated through the issuance of these municipal bonds.

Legislation and Taxation of Mortgage Subsidy Bonds

Historically, the taxation of these bonds has changed. The Mortgage Subsidy Bond Tax Act of 1980 played a crucial role in establishing rules and definitions surrounding mortgage subsidies and their associated bonds, particularly by removing their exemption from federal taxation. This meant that the returns from these municipal bonds no longer benefited from the tax-exempt status that is typically associated with many other types of municipal bonds. However, MRBs regained this tax-exempt status in 1986 when they were reclassified as "activity bonds."

Connections to Housing Finance Agencies 

While federal subsidies such as FHA loans are well-known, each state has its own Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs), which may operate under different titles. These agencies often utilize Mortgage Subsidy Bonds to fund their initiatives, thereby providing financial relief to homeowners at the state level. However, potential investors should note that returns from these bonds are not deductible from federal income taxes.

Mortgage Bonds: A Closer Look

In its simplest form, a mortgage bond is a bond secured by a mortgage or a pool of mortgages, which are typically backed by real estate holdings and real property, such as equipment. Mortgage bonds offer investors a measure of protection as the principal is secured by a valuable asset - the underlying property or properties.

In the event of default, bondholders could liquidate the underlying real estate holdings to compensate for the default. This feature makes mortgage bonds inherently safer than corporate bonds, which are backed only by the corporation's promise and ability to pay. However, due to this increased safety, mortgage bonds generally yield a lower rate of return than traditional corporate bonds.

The Role of Subsidies

A subsidy, in economic parlance, is a direct or indirect payment to individuals, firms, or institutions, typically in the form of a cash payment from the government or a targeted tax cut. Subsidies can be utilized to offset market failures and externalities to achieve greater economic efficiency. They often aim to assist struggling sectors, encourage new developments, and promote social good or policies.

However, subsidies also have their critics, who point out issues related to the calculation of optimal subsidies, overcoming unseen costs, and the prevention of political incentives from rendering subsidies more burdensome than beneficial. They argue that while subsidies may help one sector or group in the economy, they often inadvertently hurt another. For instance, a subsidy that assists farmers might lead to increased food prices for consumers.

Mortgage Subsidy Bonds are a crucial tool used by state and municipal governments to provide mortgage relief to certain borrowers, funded through the issuance of these bonds. While they offer a unique investment opportunity, potential investors should carefully consider the taxation implications and the relative safety and lower yields compared to corporate bonds. As with any financial decision, a thorough understanding of all the factors at play is essential.


Mortgage subsidy bond is another word for a mortgage revenue bond, which are municipal bonds which are used to fund mortgage relief programs and refinancing arrangements through the state or municipal government.

In 1980, the Mortgage Subsidy Bond Tax Act established some rules and definitions surrounding mortgage subsidies and their bonds, and, more specifically, removing their exemption from federal taxation.

Mortgage subsidies are loan programs that are meant to provide relief to a certain type of borrower by not charging them interest, similar to some student loans. Mortgage subsidy bonds are the municipal debt issued to raise capital to help pay for these programs on a local and state level.

There are similar federal subsidies, such as FHA loans, but states have their own housing finance agencies (HFAs), which may go under different names. The downside for investors is that these municipal bonds are not deductible from federal income taxes in the way that many municipal bonds are.

Mortgage Revenue Bonds (MRBs), a closely related type of bond, enjoyed tax-exempt status. They regain the exemption as “activity bonds” in 1986.

What are Municipal Bond Funds?
What Types of Bonds Are There?

Disclaimers and Limitations

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