April 27, 2015
- Quicken Loans Inc. filed a complaint against the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development claiming that they tried to get Quicken to make false admissions during a settlement. The Government in turn sued Quicken under the False Claims Act for improper underwriting of mortgages and benefitting under the Federal Housing Administration insurance payouts.
- The United States Supreme Court denied cert to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which argued that using contracts rather than grants to fund Section 8 public housing projects would impair the program.
- The Second Circuit Court of Appeals revived suit against Citigroup. The claims, which alleged that Citigroup tricked a Korean bank into taking $25 million in toxic collateralized debt obligations, were dismissed in the New York District Court in March 2013.
- Federal court requires RBS Securities to hand over which specific loans it is going to re-underwrite to National Credit Union Administration after allegedly causing the failure of at least two credit unions by misleading investors over hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgage-backed securities.
- Bank of America asks Second Circuit to vacate a $1.3 billion fine after jury found BofA had defrauded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac using its “High-Speed Swim Lane” program.
April 24, 2015
The Urban Institute has posted a Housing Finance Policy Center Brief, The GSEs’ Shrinking Role in the Multifamily Market. It opens,
Though the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs)—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—are best known for their dominant role in the single-family mortgage market, they have also been major providers of multifamily housing financing for more than 25 years. Their role in the multifamily market, however, has declined substantially since the housing crisis and has reverted to more normalized levels. In addition, even as the GSEs continue to meet or exceed their multifamily affordable housing goals, their financing for certain underserved segments of the market has fallen steeply in recent years.
Given recent declines, policymakers and regulators should consider maintaining or increasing the GSEs’ footprint in the multifamily market, especially in underserved segments. The scorecard cap increases and exemptions recently employed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to slow the decline in GSE multifamily volume have been somewhat effective, but they may not be enough to prevent the GSEs’ role from shrinking further. (1)
The policy brief’s main takeaway is that “policymakers and regulators should consider maintaining or increasing GSEs’ role in the multifamily market.” (8) I was struck by the fact that this policy brief pretty much took for granted that it is good for the GSEs to have such a big (and increasing) role in the multifamily market:
Though the multifamily market continues to remain strong and private financing is readily available today, it is also poised to grow significantly because of rising property prices and higher future demand. This raises the question of whether the GSEs should continue to shrink their multifamily footprint even further below the level of early 2000s, a period of relatively stable housing market. (8)
Government intervention in markets is usually called for when there is a market failure. The policy brief indicates the opposite — “private financing is readily available today.” The brief does argue that financing “backed by pure private capital is likely to be concentrated within the more profitable mid-to-high end of the market.” (9) That does not indicate that there is a market failure, just that borrowing costs should be cheaper for such projects. If the federal government is going to effectively subsidize a functioning credit market through the GSEs, it should make sure that it is getting something concrete in return, like affordable housing. Just supporting a credit market generally because it tends to support affordable housing is an inefficient way to achieve public goods like affordable housing. It also is a recipe for special interest capture and a future housing finance crisis. To the extent that this private credit market can function on its own, the government should limit its role to safety and soundness regulation and affordable housing creation.
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released its results to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Guarantee Fee Review. Following the release, the FHFA announced that the fees would remain the same with modest adjustments.
- HUD released the 2009-2011 National Rental Dynamics Reports, which tracks changes in rental housing affordability.
- Enterprise Community Partners and the National Low Income Housing Coalition and 45 other affordable housing advocates signed a letter to the appropriations committees of the house and senate urging them to pride at least $1.2 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME). a block grant that provides states and localities critical resources to help them respond to affordable housing challenges.
- A recent study by the National Association of Realtors finds that formerly distressed homeowners with restored credit are re-entering the housing market, nearly a million of these former owners have likely already purchased a home again, and an additional 1.5 million are likely to become eligible and purchase over the next five years, representing an additional source of buyer demand for the housing market.
- National Association of Realtors also released it’s March Realtor Confidence Index which finds gains in home sales and prices but noted concern over lender delays and tight inventory, especially for affordable units.
April 22, 2015
MainStreet quoted me in The Anatomy of a Mortgage – Determining Which Fees You Need to Pay. It reads in part,
All mortgages are not created equal, so reading the fine print before you agree to a long-term commitment is crucial.
Mortgage lenders now have become “very risk averse” since the financial crisis and are doing everything “pretty much by the book,” said Greg McBride, the chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com, a New York-based personal finance content company. “The rules on the ability of a homeowner to be able to repay are stricter than ten years ago,” he said. “Niche products have gone back to niche borrowers.”
While lenders are offering fewer risky products such as interest only mortgages to run-of-the-mill consumers, there are still hidden fees and other deceptive practices to be wary of, said Jason van den Brand, CEO of Lenda, the San Francisco-based online mortgage company.
In 2013, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau issued guidelines to protect consumers from the types of mortgages that contributed to the financial crash. In the past, lenders were approving mortgages that allowed consumers to borrow large sums of money without any documentation such as pay stubs and offered extremely low interest rates to lure people into buying homes.
“It also doesn’t mean that the potential to get bad mortgage advice has been eliminated,” van den Brand said. “There aren’t bad mortgage products, just bad advice and decisions.”
Here are the top seven things consumers should consider carefully.
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Avoid choosing an adjustable rate mortgage or ARM when it makes more sense to select a fixed rate mortgage. Those low initial rates offered by ARMs are enticing, but they only make sense for homeowners who know that in less than ten years, they plan to upgrade to a large home, move to another neighborhood or relocate for work. Many ARMs are called a 5/1 or 7/1, which means that they are fixed at the introductory interest rate for five or seven years and then readjust every year after that, which increases your monthly mortgage payment said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School.
While many homeowners gravitate toward a 30-year mortgage, younger owners “should seriously consider getting an ARM if they think that they might move sooner rather than later,” he said. If you are single and buying a one-bedroom condo, it is likely you could sell that condo and buy a house in the future. “That person might not want to pay for the long-term safety of a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and instead save money with a 7/1 ARM,” Reiss said.
- Keepings, by Donald J. Kochan, NYU Environmental Law Journal (2015) Forthcoming.
- Low-Income Housing Policy, by Robert A. Collinson, Ingrid Gould Ellen, & Jens Ludwig, NBER Working Paper No. w.21071.
- Housing Discrimination Among Available Housing Units in 2012: Do Paired Testing Studies Understate Housing Discrimination, by Rob Pitingolo & Stephen L. Ross, April 5, 2015.