REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

August 8, 2016

Light Bloggin’ in August

By David Reiss

swimming in ocean

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August 8, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • Homeowners in the state of Illinois request class certification in a lawsuit seeking to hold city officials accountable for their alleged misconduct regarding property tax auctions in the St. Louis area.
  • Nationwide Equities Corp. filed a claim with a New Jersey state court alleging that an attorney misrepresented his role in over 200 closings across the state of New Jersey.
  • The Eleventh Circuit leaned to Florida’s highest court to determine whether a construction defect notice should activate an insurer’s duty to act regarding the client’s commercial insurance policy.

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August 8, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

August 5, 2016

Homeownership in NYC

By David Reiss

photo by Nathan Hart

Brooklyn’s Charles Millard Pratt House

NYU’s Furman Center and Citi have released their joint Report on Homeownership & Opportunity in New York City. It opens,

In New York City, the notoriously high costs of rental housing are well documented. But becoming a homeowner in the New York City real estate market is also a considerable challenge for low- to middle-income households. Households earning less than $114,000 face a severely constrained supply of homeownership opportunities in New York City.

This report seeks to shed light on the extreme variation in homeownership rates among New Yorkers and quantify the homeownership options that exist at different income levels. We do this by analyzing 2014 home sales prices and examining the potential purchasing power of households at various income levels in New York City, as well as in the nearby counties of Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester.

We use five income categories for this analysis—Low-Income, Moderate-Income, Middle-Income, NYC-Middle-Income, and High-Income. These income bands are based on percentages of Area Median Family Income (AMFI) for the New York City metropolitan statistical area established by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) and are based on data from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey. This report includes an additional middle-income band (NYC-Middle-Income), given that affordable housing programs in New York City serve households up to 165 percent of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) area median income (AMI). (3)

You’re all wondering, of course, what NYC-Middle Income is, so the report provides the following explanation of the income categories:

“Low-Income” households have an annual income of $34,000 or less, or 50 percent of AMFI;

“Moderate-Income” households have an annual income between $34,001-$55,000, or 50 percent to less than 80 percent of AMFI;

“Middle-Income” households have an annual income of $55,001-$83,000, or 80 percent to less than 120 percent of AMFI;

NYC-Middle-Income” households have an annual income of $83,001-$114,000, or 120 percent to less than 165 of AMFI; and

“High-Income” households have an annual income above $114,001, or 165 percent of AMFI or greater. (3, emphasis added)

The report finds that

the purchasing power of most New York City households is limited, largely due to growing housing prices and stagnating incomes since 1990. In addition, while New York City had a relatively low share of homeowners compared to the U.S. in 2014, it was disproportionately low for Low-Income and Moderate-Income households relative to their U.S. counterparts.

The vast majority of home sales in New York City in 2014 were at prices unaffordable to Low-Income and Moderate-Income households, which comprised 51 percent of New York City households. Of the nine percent of sales in the city affordable to these households, three percent were affordable to Low-Income households and an additional six percent were affordable to Moderate-Income households. Home sales with prices that were affordable to Low-Income and Moderate-Income households in 2014 were, for the most part, concentrated outside of Manhattan.

Prospects for homeownership were not much better for Middle-Income households. In 2014, Middle-Income households, which comprise 15 percent of New York City households, could afford an additional 13 percent of sales (based on a total purchase price of up to $364,000), leaving 78 percent of sales out of reach for households with incomes of less than $83,000 annually. Less than half of sales in 2014 (42%) were affordable to 77 percent of New York households, including those characterized as NYC-Middle-Income.

Moving outside of New York City does not necessarily improve a New York City household’s potential to buy a home. In Westchester County, only two percent of sales were affordable to New York City Low-Income and Moderate-Income homebuyers combined in 2014. In Nassau County, only 24 percent of sales were affordable to New York City Low-Income, Moderate-Income, and Middle-Income homebuyers in 2014. In Suffolk County, 42 percent of sales were affordable to New York City Low-Income, Moderate-Income, and Middle-Income households. (4)

New Yorkers, and a lot of non-New Yorkers, are going to eat up the graphs in this report (what IS the median sales price in Brooklyn?!?), so it is worth a read for the real estate obsessed (yes, you). But it also has policy implications about the housing stock of the City and the surrounding region. The report itself does not make any policy recommendations, but it offers a stark reminder of how important rental housing policy is to any effort to maintain socio-economic diversity in the City.

 

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August 5, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Robert Engelke

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August 4, 2016

Fannie & Freddie G-Fee Equilibrium

By David Reiss

financial-concept-mortgage

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Division of Housing Mission & Goals has issued its report on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Single-Family Guarantee Fees in 2015. Guarantee fees (also known as g-fees) are another one of those incredibly technical subjects that actually have a major impact on the housing market. The g-fee is baked into the cost of the mortgage, so the higher the g-fee, the higher the mortgage’s Annual Percentage Rate. Consumer groups and housing trade associations have called upon the FHFA to lower the g-fee to make mortgage credit even cheaper that it is now. This report gives reason to think that the FHFA won’t do that.

The report provides some background on guarantee fees, for the uninitiated:

Guarantee fees are intended to cover the credit risk and other costs that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac incur when they acquire single-family loans from lenders. Loans are acquired through two methods. A lender may exchange a group of loans for a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guaranteed mortgage-backed security (MBS), which may then be sold by the lender into the secondary market to recoup funds to make more loans to borrowers. Alternatively, a lender may deliver loans to an Enterprise in return for a cash payment. Larger lenders tend to exchange loans for MBS, while smaller lenders tend to sell loans for cash and these loans are later bundled by the Enterprises into MBS.

While the private holders of MBS assume market risk (the risk that the price of the security may fall due to changes in interest rates), the Enterprises assume the credit risk on the loans. The Enterprises charge a guarantee fee in exchange for providing this guarantee, which covers administrative costs, projected credit losses from borrower defaults over the life of the loans, and the cost of holding capital to protect against projected credit losses that could occur during stressful macroeconomic conditions. Investors are willing to pay a higher price for Enterprise MBS due to their guarantee of principal and interest. The higher value of the MBS leads to lower interest rates for borrowers.

There are two types of guarantee fees: ongoing and upfront. Ongoing fees are collected each month over the life of a loan. Upfront fees are one-time payments made by lenders upon loan delivery to an Enterprise. Fannie Mae refers to upfront fees as “loan level pricing adjustments,” while Freddie Mac refers to them as “delivery fees.” Both ongoing and upfront fees compensate the Enterprises for the costs of providing the guarantee. Ongoing fees are based primarily on the product type, such as a 30-year fixed rate or a 15-year fixed rate loan. Upfront fees are used to price for specific risk attributes such as the loan-to-value ratio (LTV) and credit score.

Ongoing fees are set by the Enterprises with lenders that exchange loans for MBS, while those fees are embedded in the price offered to lenders that sell loans for cash. In contrast to ongoing fees, the upfront fees are publicly posted on each Enterprise’s website. Upfront fees are paid by the lender at the time of loan delivery to an Enterprise, and those charges are typically rolled into a borrower’s interest rate in the same manner as ongoing fees.

Under the existing protocols of the Enterprises’ conservatorships, FHFA requires that each Enterprise seek FHFA approval for any proposed change in upfront fees. The upfront fees assessed by the two Enterprises generally are in alignment. (2-3)

The report finds that “The average single-family guarantee fee increased by two basis points in 2015 to 59 basis points. This stability is consistent with FHFA’s April 2015 determination that the fees adequately reflected the credit risk of new acquisitions after years of sharp fee increases. During the five year period from 2011 to 2015, fees had more than doubled from 26 basis points to 59 basis points.” (1)

At bottom, your position on the right g-fee level reflects your views about the appropriate role of the government in the housing finance market. If you favor lowering the g-fee, you want to further subsidize homeownership  through cheaper mortgage credit, but you risk a taxpayer bailout.

If you favor raising it, you want to to reduce the government’s footprint in the housing finance market, but you risk rationing credit to those who could use it responsibly.

From this report, it looks like today’s FHFA thinks that it has the balance between those two views in some kind of equilibrium.

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August 4, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Robert Engelke

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August 4, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments

August 3, 2016

The Future of Mortgage Default

By David Reiss

photo by Diane BassfordThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has shared its Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation. It opens,

This document outlines four principles, Accessibility, Affordability, Sustainability, and Transparency, that provide a framework for discussion about the future of loss mitigation as the nation moves beyond the housing and economic crisis that began in 2007. As the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is phased out, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering the lessons learned from HAMP while looking forward to the continuing loss mitigation needs of consumers in a post-HAMP world. These principles build on, but are distinct from, the backdrop of the Bureau’s mortgage servicing rules and its supervisory and enforcement authority. This document does not establish binding legal requirements. These principles are intended to complement ongoing discussions among industry, consumer groups and policymakers on the development of loss mitigation programs that span the full spectrum of both home retention options such as forbearance, repayment plans and modifications, and home disposition options such as short sales and deeds-in-lieu.

The future environment of mortgage default is expected to look very different than it did during the crisis. Underwriting based on the ability to repay rule is already resulting in fewer defaults. Mortgage investors have recognized the value of resolving delinquencies early when defaults do occur. Mortgage servicers have developed systems and processes for working with borrowers in default. The CFPB’s mortgage servicing rules have established clear guardrails for early intervention, dual tracking, and customer communication; however, they do not require loss mitigation options beyond those offered by the investor nor do they define every element of loss mitigation execution.

Yet, even with an improved horizon and regulatory guardrails, there is ample opportunity for consumer harm if loss mitigation programs evolve without incorporating key learnings from the crisis. While there is broad agreement within the industry on the high level principles, determining how they translate into programs is more nuanced. Further development of these principles and their implementation is necessary to prevent less desirable consumer outcomes and to ensure the continuance of appropriate consumer protections.

The CFPB concludes,

The CFPB believes these principles are flexible enough to encompass a range of approaches to loss mitigation, recognizing the legitimate interests of consumers, investors and servicers. One of the lessons of HAMP is that loss mitigation that is good for consumers is usually good for investors, as well. The CFPB therefore seeks to engage all stakeholders in a discussion of the principles for future loss mitigation.

I have no beef with this set of principles as far as it goes, but I am concerned that it does not explicitly include a discussion of the role of state court foreclosures in loss mitigation. As this blog has well documented, homeowners are facing Kafkaesque, outrageous, even hellish, behavior by servicers in state foreclosure actions. Even if the federal government cannot address state law issues directly, these issues should be included as part of the discussion of the problems that homeowners face when their mortgages go into default.

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August 3, 2016 | Permalink | No Comments