Washington (CNN) - Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts Tuesday took her crusade for income equality in the United States to the 100th annual convention of the Mortgage Bankers Association.
In remarks at the Washington Convention Center, Warren admonished the rapid growth of sub-prime mortgages as the underlying cause of the housing crisis that has dragged on for the last several years while defending Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed housing finance giants that required a massive bailout in 2008 when their housing investments soured.
"Home ownership remains the centerpiece of the American dream," she said.
Citing lower down payments than in other parts of the world and the prevalence of 30-year mortgages, she pressed, "It's critical that we fight to maintain the unique character of American housing."
And getting housing reform wrong as it moves through Congress, she said, would be disastrous for the middle class.
"We need reform, but it must be targeted reform that preserves the good things about the pre-crisis system," she said, adding that good reform could temper the boom-bust cycle of the housing market.
Sens. Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, and Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, have introduced a bill to reform government involvement in the housing market. Warren applauded the two moderate Senators efforts for putting the issue in motion but warned that it isn't a perfect bill.
Instead, she offered her own five-pronged approach to housing reform.
First, Warren pressed the need for the government to explicitly guarantee mortgage-backed securities.
"The housing market is so important and so large," she said, "there is no plausible scenario in which the government does not guarantee at least a portion of it."
She pressed the need to adequately regulate market participants, increase beneficial loan modifications and ensure smaller lenders have a place in the market.
"We must not end up with a housing market that crowds out smaller financial institutions," said Warren, one of the key architects of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The freshman Democrat has become a darling of progressives, and her populist approach to policy could make her an attractive candidate to the left in the 2016 presidential primaries if she pursues a bid. Several small progressive groups in Washington already are trying to present Warren as an alternative to a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy.