Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

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July 29, 2015

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

July 29, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

July 28, 2015

Optimizing Mortgage Availability

By David Reiss

"Barack Obama speaks to press in Diplomatic Reception Room 2-25-09" by Pete Souza - Licensed via ttps://

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report, Mortgage Reforms: Actions Needed to Help Assess Effects of New Regulations. The GAO did this study to predict the effects of the Qualified Mortgage (QM) and Qualified Residential Mortgage (QRM) regulations. The GAO found

Federal agency officials, market participants, and observers estimated that the qualified mortgage (QM) and qualified residential mortgage (QRM) regulations would have limited initial effects because most loans originated in recent years largely conformed with QM criteria.

  • The QM regulations, which address lenders’ responsibilities to determine a borrower’s ability to repay a loan, set forth standards that include prohibitions on risky loan features (such as interest-only or balloon payments) and limits on points and fees. Lenders that originate QM loans receive certain liability protections.
  • Securities collateralized exclusively by residential mortgages that are “qualified residential mortgages” are exempt from risk-retention requirements. The QRM regulations align the QRM definition with QM; thus, securities collateralized solely by QM loans are not subject to risk-retention requirements.

The analyses GAO reviewed estimated limited effects on the availability of mortgages for most borrowers and that any cost increases (for borrowers, lenders, and investors) would mostly stem from litigation and compliance issues. According to agency officials and observers, the QRM regulations were unlikely to have a significant initial effect on the availability or securitization of mortgages in the current market, largely because the majority of loans originated were expected to be QM loans. However, questions remain about the size and viability of the secondary market for non-QRM-backed securities.

This last bit — questions about the non-QRM-backed market — is very important.

Some consumer advocates believe that there should not be any non-QRM mortgages. I disagree. There should be some sort of market for mortgages that do not comply with the strict (and, in the main, beneficial) QRM limitations.

Some homeowners will not be eligible for a plain vanilla QM/QRM mortgage but could still handle a mortgage responsibly. The mortgage markets would not be healthy without some kind of non-QRM-backed securities market for those consumers.

So far, that non-QRM market has been very small, smaller than expected. Regulators should continue to study the effects of the new mortgage regulations to ensure that they incentivize making the socially optimal amount of non-QRM mortgage credit available to homeowners.

July 28, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Update

By Serenna McCloud

  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released a final notice, The Small Buildings Risk Sharing Initiative invites private sector lenders to partner with the FHA to provide long term fixed rate capital to small building owners with mortgages of $3 – 5 million. Lending under this initiative will be limited to properties which are willing to meet affordability requirements.  The FHA will guarantee 50% of the mortgages.  The FHA is also pursing a change to Section 542(b) of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992  to allow SBRSI lenders to access capital through Ginnie Mae and to authorize securitization of the loans. In the mean time lenders can access low interest long term capital through the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank.
  • The Mayor of Seattle has released an Action Plan to address the affordability crisis in that city, where 15-20% of the population is severely rent burdened and minorities are disproportionately impacted. The Mayor’s goal is to create 50,000 units over the next 10 years.
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury has proposed a rule which, “provides for the enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964…to that end no person in the United States shall on the grounds of race, color, or national origin be denied participation in, be denied benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance from the Department of the Treasury.”  The rule, open for comment until September 11, provides guidance to recipients and provisions for “consistent and appropriate enforcement.” The proposed ruled covers 12 programs including the Community Developments Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI).

July 28, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

July 27, 2015

Desvinculado y Desigual = Separate and Unequal

By David Reiss

"Plessy marker" by Skywriter - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Justin Steil, Jorge De la Roca and Ingrid Gould Ellen, researchers affiliated to the NYU Furman Center, have published Desvinculado y Desigual [Separate and Unequal]: Is Segregation Harmful to Latinos? The authors find that their research on this topic “suggests that segregation may have as negative effects for Latinos as it does for African Americans and that persistent Latino-white segregation is of serious concern as the nation’s metropolitan areas continue to become more diverse.” (74)

More specifically, their research finds that

segregation continues to be associated with significant reductions in educational attainment and labor market success for African Americans, and that the associations between segregation and outcomes for Latinos are at least as large as those for African Americans. For native-born African American and Latino young adults between the ages of 20 and 30, increases in metropolitan-area segregation are associated with significant reductions in the likelihood of high school and college graduation, with lower earnings and employment rates, and with an increase in single motherhood.

These findings are somewhat unanticipated given the long history of intense black-white segregation and the systematic disinvestment in black neighborhoods through much of the last century, when compared to the historically more moderate levels of Latino-white segregation. These findings raise the question of which mechanisms may be at play to generate these differences.

One crucial mechanism seems to be the levels of neighborhood human capital to which whites, Latinos, and African Americans are exposed; they are consistent with the negative associations for both blacks and Latinos and with the differences in the magnitude of the association between them. The white-Latino gap in neighborhood exposure to human capital increases dramatically as levels of segregation increase.

The significance of neighborhood levels of human capital is consistent with existing research on the effects of segregation for African Americans and for immigrants. (73, citations omitted)

This is an understudied and important topic, so it is great that the authors have begun to explore it. They identify a number of research questions that others can take up. Let’s hope some do.

July 27, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

July 27, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

July 24, 2015

From Owners to Renters

By David Reiss

Frank Nothaft

Frank Nothaft

CoreLogic’s July issue of The MarketPulse has in interesting piece by Frank Nothaft, Rental Remains Robust (registration required). It opens,

A vibrant rental market has been an outgrowth of the Great Recession and housing market crash. Apartment vacancy rates are down to their lowest levels since the 1980s, rental apartment construction is the most robust in more than 25 years, rents are up, and apartment building values are at or above their prior peaks. But the rental market is more than just apartments in high-rise buildings.

Apartments in buildings with five or more residences account for 42 percent of the U.S. rental stock. Additionally, two-to-four-family housing units comprise an additional 18 percent of the rental stock, and one-family homes make up the remaining 40 percent.

The foreclosure crisis resulted in a large number of homes being acquired by investors and turned into rentals.  Between 2006 and 2013, three million single-family detached houses were added to the nation’s rental stock, an increase of 32 percent. The increase in the single-family rental stock has been geographically broad based, but has impacted some markets more than others.

*     *     *

While the growth in the rental stock has been large, so has been the demand. Some of the households seeking rental houses were displaced through foreclosure. Others were millennials who had begun or were planning families, but were unable or unwilling to buy. (1-2, footnotes omitted)

Nothaft’s focus is on the investment outlook for rental housing, but I find that his summary has a lot to offer the housing policy world as well. He describes a large change in the balance between the rental and homeowner housing stock, one that has had an outsized effect on certain communities and certain generations.

Housing policy commentators generally feel that the federal government provides way too much support to homeowners (mostly through the tax code) and not enough to renters. Perhaps this demographic shift will spur politicians to rethink that balance. Renters should not be treated like second class citizens.

July 24, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Friday’s Government Reports

By Serenna McCloud

  • The U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly released the New Residential Construction statistics for June 2015 – which shows sizable increases in housing starts (compared to June 2014) for multiple unit construction, particularly in the Northeast (up 159.6% for 5 units or more), South (up 10.4% overall) and the West (up 27.4%).
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) for May 2015 is up .4% from April 2015. The FHFA HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. From May 2014 to May 2015, house prices were up 5.7 percent. The U.S. index is 1.8 percent below its March 2007 peak and is roughly the same as the April 2006 index level.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Monthly Complaint Report reveals that the most complained about product is the Mortgage while the biggest increase in complaints has been in the debt collection sector.  The report details complaint data by company, region and financial product.

July 24, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments