WASHINGTON - Lenders stung by the financial crisis are still holding back on extending credit, impeding a recovery in the housing market, Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke said on Thursday.

Even taking into account the excesses of the bubble period it appears that lenders have now tightened underwriting terms so much that the lack of credit availability is at least partially an impediment to homeownership, she told a Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago conference on housing finance.

The Fed made her comments available in Washington.

Duke did not comment on the broad outlook for the economy or interest rates in her speech.

Housing finance markets need a clear signal about the future shape of government-backed mortgage finance enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before private mortgage markets can recover, Duke said.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were for-profit corporations that benefited from government lines of credit that led markets to assume the government would stand behind their obligations if they ran into financial difficulties.

The government placed the companies into conservatorship during financial market turmoil last year and has had to pump tens of billions of dollars into them to prop them up.

Whatever is the ultimate future for Fannie and Freddie, market participants will need to see a clear roadmap for both the individual institutions and the role of government in housing finance before private markets can begin to map a course for themselves, she said.