January 7, 2014

Preserving NYC’s Affordable Housing Stock

By David Reiss

The housing folks in the De Blasio Administration may want to take a look at a recent article in the Journal of Affordable Housing by Sullivan and Power.  Coming Affordable Housing Challenges for Municipalities After the Great Recession (also on SSRN) provides an overview of some modest ways to protect the existing affordable housing stock. Policies such as these can inform the Mayor’s overall affordable housing strategy which will have to emphasize preservation as much as new construction.

The authors note that for “low-income individuals who are to find employment, the disparity between wages and housing affordability is stark.” (298) They also note that while “housing prices have fallen approximately 30 percent since 2006, adjustments in value have done little to ease the financial burden of rental housing.” (2) The article then looks at various opportunities that local governments have to stem the loss of rental units to conversion, demolition and abandonment.

The authors identify three cost-effective and ways that states and local governments may be able to  “curtail the ongoing loss and conversion of affordable housing units . . ..” (308) They can adopt “no net loss” policies that could, for instance require that downzonings of residential communities be matched by upzonings . They can implement “rights of first refusal” that grant governmental and not-for-profit housing agencies “the right to notice of an owner’s intent to sell within a certain time frame and an opportunity to purchase expiring or opting-out affordable housing units.” (310) And local and state governments can amend their building codes to make it easier and cheaper for providers of affordable housing to maintain their properties.

NYC already does some of these things, but it is worth it for the new Mayor to take a fresh look at the City’s approach to preservation to ensure that there are no missed opportunities.

January 7, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

California Court Dismisses Claim Due to lack of Standing and Failure to State a Claim

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Britto v. Bank of Am., N.A., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146978 (N.D. Cal. 2013) granted defendant’s motion to dismiss.

In this foreclosure action, defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Plaintiffs alleged a host of violations during the securitization process. Realty Mortgage allegedly did not endorse or record a sale or assignment of the deed of trust to any entity and Countrywide Home Loans allegedly did not endorse or record a sale or assignment to BNY Mellon.

Plaintiffs also argued that BOA did not retain servicing rights to the deed of trust, BNY Mellon did not have any interest as legal trustee of the trust, and “no entity . . . had any valid lien or legal, recorded, documentable, standing on the plaintiff’s mortgage loan”

Moreover, defendant (MERS) was named beneficiary and nominee in the deed of trust prior to the securitization. In 2011, MERS transferred all of its beneficial interest under the deed of trust to BNY Mellon. Plaintiffs thus alleged that after the deed of trust and promissory note were securitized in 2006 and improper transfers of ownership to the deed of trust occurred, MERS’ nominal rights were extinguished. Thus, MERS could not have properly transferred its interests to BNY Mellon in 2011, and BNY Mellon cannot foreclose on the property.

The court rejected these arguments finding that the plaintiff’s argument failed.

January 7, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

California Court Dismisses All 12 Claims

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Scott v. Saxon Mortg. Servs., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146988 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 10, 2013) granted defendant’s motion to dismiss with leave to amend in part.

Plaintiff’s brought 12 claims against defendants. Plaintiff’s first claim for violation of California Business and Professions Code section 17200 predicated on violation of California Civil Code section 2923.5 and Plaintiff’s ninth claim for violation of California Civil Code section 2923.5. The court dismissed both without leave to amend.

Plaintiff’s second claim for breach of good faith and fair dealing was also dismissed with leave to amend; the third claim for slander of title was likewise dismissed without leave to amend.

Plaintiff’s fourth claim for “alter ago liability” and fifth claim for breach of contract were both dismissed without leave to amend. Unlike the former claims, plaintiff’s sixth claim for unjust enrichment was dismissed with leave to amend. However, plaintiff’s seventh claim for violation of California Business and Professions Code section 17200 was dismissed without leave to amend. Plaintiff’s eighth claim for predatory lending and violation of TILA were dismissed without leave to amend.

Plaintiff’s tenth claim for defamation and eleventh claim for false light were also dismissed without leave to amend. Lastly, plaintiff’s twelfth claim to void or cancel assignment of the deed of trust and the thirteenth claim for cancellation of a voidable contract were dismissed without leave to amend

January 7, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

California Court Finds That Defendants Complied With Statutory Mandate That the Notice of Default Include Sufficient Contact Information

By Ebube Okoli

The court in deciding Wagma Safi v. Bank of Am., N.A., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147005 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 9, 2013) ultimately granted defendant’s motion to dismiss.

In her first cause of action, the plaintiff asked for declaratory relief in the form of a judicial declaration that the plaintiff had the right to reinstate the loan for which the deed of trust was collateral, and that the defendants were required to provide her with the information necessary to do so.

The court dismissed the plaintiff’s first cause of action for declaratory relief. Despite defendants’’ alleged refusal to provide plaintiff with information regarding the loan, their compliance with the notice requirements of section 2924c(b)(1) provided plaintiff with sufficient information to exercise her right to reinstate the loan.

In her second cause of action, plaintiff asked for declaratory relief, contending that “Bank of America was the sole beneficiary under the deed of trust and that MERS had no authority to transfer or assign any rights under the deed” Plaintiff alleged that MERS signed the deed of trust “solely as nominee” and thus lacked the authority to assign its interest to a third party.

The court found that plaintiff made no showing that would call into question the validity of MERS’ assignment. The court found that she failed to state a claim and the second cause of action was dismissed.

January 7, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

January 6, 2014

A New History of Mortgage Banking — Part Two!

By David Reiss

I know, I know, you can’t get enough of this stuff. Yesterday, I noted a couple of highlights from Mortgage Banking in the United States 1870-1940. The last part of the report carefully documents how various players in the urban mortgage market saw their market and their market shares change dramatically as a result, in large part, of the new federal housing finance regime introduced in the 1930s:

All that was required for a historic surge in homebuilding and homeownership was a housing finance system. Local institutional portfolio lenders, now buttressed by deposit insurance and, in the case of S&Ls, the FHLB’s lending facilities, took up most of the business. But the inter-regional flow of credit that arbitraged imbalances across local markets was dominated by life insurance companies and their mortgage banking correspondents. Through 1952, most of these loans were insured under the FHA program, and for good reason — that program had worked well for these intermediaries in the late 1930s. The federally insured and guaranteed home mortgage loan business for life insurance companies and, later in the decade, mutual savings banks preoccupied mortgage bankers until the unusual conditions that fostered the expansion finally ran out in the 1960s. (2)

All of this historical detail brings home a key point for us today. The technical choices we make in structuring the federal housing finance system will alter the incentives of all of the current players. As we watch to see how the Qualified Mortgage, Qualified Residential Mortgage and Ability-to-Repay rules play out when they go into effect next year, we should know that they are likely to shape the mortgage market for decades to come. We already know that some mortgage products will be common and some rare because of these rules. But we should also be aware that some types of originators will be winners and some will be losers because of these rules, although it is too early (at least for me) to tell which will be which. And such an impact may shape the nature mortgage market as much as the types of products that eventually win out when the rules are fully understood by the industry.

January 6, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

January 3, 2014

A New History of Mortgage Banking

By David Reiss

Yes, I know, a dry subject for most. But for some nerds, there are lots of insights in Mortgage Banking in the United States 1870-1940. The author, Kenneth Snowden, highlights this finding, which gives more credit to the Federal Farm Loan Bank system for the development of the modern mortgage market than do many other histories of the industry:

The Federal Farm Loan Bank system and the FHA mortgage insurance programs that restructured both the farm and urban mortgage banking sectors shared three common features:

+     They each encouraged the widespread adoption of long-term, amortized mortgage loans.

+     They each created mechanisms to stimulate the inter-regional transfer of mortgage credit and the convergence of mortgage rates and lending terms across regions.

+     They each established federal chartering systems for privately financed European-style mortgage banks to create active secondary markets for long-term, amortized loans. (2)

This history provides a lot more detail than one finds in standard histories of the American mortgage market, including much about the early history of securitization. Writers in this area (myself included) tend to think that securitization was birthed in the 1970s, but Snowden documents some proto-securitizations in the early 20th Century. I will come back to this report in a later blog post, but I highly recommend it to serious students of the mortgage markets.

January 3, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments

January 2, 2014

Reiss on Cases To Watch In 2014

By David Reiss

Law360 quoted me in Real Estate Cases To Watch In 2014. The story reads in part,

The real estate market’s recovery from the financial crisis of the past few years has created a host of new issues — from contract disputes to eminent domain litigation — for government lenders, developers and investors to litigate in 2014.

Real estate finance attorneys are paying close attention to an expected rise in judicial scrutiny of banks’ ownership of loans, while also closely watching the multitude of cases that have been brought against the U.S. government and its handling of profits made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

At the same time, development attorneys are tuned in to how an increase in construction in gateway cities might soon lead to more litigation over land use and eminent domain.

Here are some of the most important cases and trends real estate attorneys are watching closely:

Challenges to Allocation of Fannie and Freddie Profits

A collection of cases making their way through the Washington, D.C., federal court and the Court of Federal Claims challenge the government’s taking of all of the profits from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and directing them toward the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Two of the most-watched cases were brought by hedge funds Perry Capital LLC and Fairholme Capital Management LLC, the latter of which has since offered to purchase the government-sponsored entities’ insurance businesses.

Perry Capital accused the Treasury in July of illegally speeding up the GSEs’ liquidation, entitling the government to all of their mounting profits and essentially “extinguishing” privately held securities, according to the complaint filed in Washington federal court.

Fairholme made a similar claim in the Court of Federal Claims two days later, alleging that the government had acted unconstitutionally when it altered its bailout deal for the GSEs to keep the companies’ profits for itself.

“The universe of cases impacting the current operation of Fannie and Freddie is very important from a policy perspective, and it’s also an interesting battle between hedge funds and the government,” said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School.

There will likely be a flurry of motions to dismiss and requests for summary judgment on all sides in these cases 2014, but from the perspective of a real estate attorney, the policy implications will be more interesting than the precedential value of any decisions, he said.

A hearing on defendants’ dispositive motions and plaintiffs’ cross motions has been set for June 23 in the Washington cases.

Perry Capital is represented by Theodore B. Olson, Janet Weiss, Douglas Cox, Matthew McGill, Nikesh Jindal and Derek Lyons of Gibson Dunn. The case is Perry Capital LLC v. Lew et al., case number 1:13-cv-01025, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Fairholme is represented by Charles J. Cooper, Vincent J. Colatriano, David H. Thompson and Peter A. Patterson of Cooper & Kirk PLLC. That case is Fairholme Funds Inc. v. U.S., case number 1:13-cv-00465, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

January 2, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments