March 13, 2015

Friday Government Report Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

March 13, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

March 12, 2015

Reiss on Being Financially Overextended

By David Reiss

US News & World Report quoted me in 5 Signs You’re Financially Overextended. It reads in part,

 Are you managing your debt? Or is it managing you? If you’re stuck in a money quicksand trap, you may not even realize at first that you’re in a financial predicament, especially if you’re sinking slowly and have been poorly managing your cash for a long time.

But if you suspect your debt is a disaster in the making, there’s no need to wait and see if your financial life will someday implode. If you’re pushing your finances to the limit, the signs are already there that you’re overextended. Just look for them. And if you spot one, don’t ignore it. Here are five of the biggest clues that trouble is coming.

*     *     *

5. You’ve created opportunities that could make you overextended. If you have a lot credit cards or lines of credit you rarely use, you could, in theory, end up spending a lot of money and getting yourself into trouble that way, but having those lines open isn’t itself a bad sign. It’s a sign that you have good credit, and your creditors trust you. Still, it’s good to remember that if you aren’t monitoring yourself, you could ultimately max out and find yourself buried in credit card debt.

At least in that scenario, you have control over what may or may not happen. Some homeowners, however, put themselves at risk for becoming overextended when they get an adjustable rate mortgage or a home equity line of credit in which the interest rate “may float with some kind of index like the prime rate or [London Interbank Offered Rate],” says David Reiss, professor of law and research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, New York.

“So if interest rates rise dramatically, the home equity line of credit can become unaffordable,” he says. “Interest rates have been very low for some time, so homeowners are not focusing on this risk, but if they were to rise – and they can rise suddenly – homeowners may face a rude awakening.”

In which case, you may want to refinance and position yourself to avoid becoming financially overextended if the interest rates someday jump. Because what happens to anything when it’s stretched beyond its limits? It – or you – will snap.

March 12, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Round-Up

By Serenna McCloud

March 12, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

March 11, 2015

Housing Affordability Across The Globe

By David Reiss

The 11th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2015 has been released. The survey provides ratings for metropolitan markets in Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. There are some interesting global trends:

Historically, the Median Multiple has been remarkably similar in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, with median house prices from 2.0 to 3.0 times median household incomes. However, in recent decades, house prices have been decoupled from this relationship in a number of markets, such as Vancouver, Sydney, San Francisco, London, Auckland and others. Without exception, these markets have severe land use restrictions (typically “urban containment” policies) that have been associated with higher land prices and in consequence higher house prices (as basic economics would indicate, other things being equal).
Virtually no government administering urban containment policy effectively monitors housing affordability. However, encouraging developments have been implemented at higher levels of government in New Zealand and Florida, and there are signs of potential reform elsewhere. (1-2)
These findings are consistent with Glaeser and Gyourko’s research on U.S. housing markets. Not too many local politicians seem to acknowledge the tension between land use policies that limit residential density on the one hand and housing affordability on the other. The de Blasio Administration in NYC is a refreshing exception to that general rule.
The explicit bias of the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey “is that domestic public policy should, first and foremost be focused on improving the standard of living and reducing poverty.” (2) Those who favor policies that create more affordable housing should take to heart the call for greater density and less restrictive zoning for residential uses. Otherwise, we are left with subsidy programs that can only help a small percentage of those in need of affordable housing and a lot of empty promises about affordable housing for all. Subsidies have a place in an affordable housing agenda, but so does density.

March 11, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

March 11, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

March 10, 2015

Countercyclical Regulation of Housing Finance

By David Reiss

Pat McCoy has posted Countercyclical Regulation and Its Challenges to SSRN. The abstract reads,

Following the 2008 financial crisis, countercyclical regulation emerged as one of the most promising breakthroughs in years to halting destructive cycles of booms and busts. This new approach to systemic risk posits that financial regulation should clamp down during economic expansions and ease during economic slumps in order to make financial firms more resilient and to prick asset bubbles before they burst. If countercyclical regulation is to succeed, however, then policymakers must confront the institutional and legal challenges to that success. This Article examines five major challenges to robust countercyclical regulation – data gaps, early response systems, regulatory inertia, industry capture, and arbitrage – and discusses a variety of techniques to defuse those challenges.

Readers of this blog will be particularly interested in the section titled “Sectoral Regulatory Tools.” (34 et seq.) This section gives an overview of countercyclical tools that can be employed in the housing finance sector:  loan-to value limits; debt-to-income limits; and ability-to-repay rules. McCoy ends this section by noting,

The importance of the ability-to-repay rule and the CFPB’s exclusive role in promulgating that rule has another, very different ramification. It is a mistake to ignore the role of market conduct supervisors such as the CFPB in countercyclical regulation. The centrality of consumer financial protection in ensuring sensible loan underwriting standards – particularly for home mortgages – underscores the vital role that market conduct regulators such as the CFPB will play in the federal government’s efforts to prevent future, catastrophic real estate bubbles. (44)

While this seems like an obvious point to me — sensible consumer protection acts as a brake on financial speculation — many, many academics who study financial regulation disagree. If this article gets some of those academics to reconsider their position, it will make a real contribution to the post-crisis financial literature.

March 10, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Round-Up

By Serenna McCloud

  • House Introduced this Bill, H.R. 1266, to Create Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Commission

March 10, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments