February 11, 2015

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

February 11, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

February 10, 2015

Risky Reverse Mortgages

By David Reiss

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report, Snapshot of Reverse Mortgage Complaints:  December 2011-December 2014. By way of background,

Reverse mortgages differ from other types of home loans in a few important ways. First, unlike traditional “forward” mortgages, reverse mortgages do not require borrower(s) to make monthly mortgage payments (though they must continue paying property taxes and homeowners’ insurance). Prospective reverse mortgage borrowers are required to undergo mandatory housing counseling before they sign for the loan. The loan proceeds are generally provided to the borrowers as lump-sum payouts, annuity-like monthly payments, or as lines of credit. The interest and fees on the mortgage are added to the loan balance each month. The total loan balance becomes due upon the death of the borrower(s), the sale of the home, or if the borrower(s) permanently move from the home. In addition, a payment deferral period may be available to some non-borrowing spouses following the borrowing spouse’s death. (3, footnotes omitted)

The CFPB concludes that

borrowers and their non-borrowing spouses who obtained reverse mortgages prior to August 4, 2014 may likely encounter difficulties in upcoming years similar to those described in this Snapshot, i.e., non-borrowing spouses seeking to retain ownership of their homes after the borrowing spouse dies. As a result, many of these consumers may need notification of and assistance in averting impending possible displacement should the non-borrowing spouse outlive his or her borrowing spouse.

For millions of older Americans, especially those without sufficient retirement reserves, tapping into accrued home equity could help them achieve economic security in later life. As the likelihood increases that older Americans will use their home equity to supplement their retirement income, it is essential that the terms, conditions and servicing of reverse mortgages be fair and transparent so that consumers can make informed decisions regarding their options. (16)
Reverse mortgages have a number of characteristics that would make them ripe for abuse: borrowers are elderly; borrowers have a hard time refinancing them; borrowers can negatively affect their spouses by entering into to them. Seems like a no brainer for the CFPB to pay close attention to this useful but risky product.

February 10, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesdays Regulatory & Legislative Round-Up

By Serenna McCloud

February 10, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

February 9, 2015

Reiss on $191B for Fannie & Freddie

By David Reiss

GlobeSt.com quoted me in About that $191B Profit from the GSEs. It opens,

Last week when the White House released its budget for fiscal year

2016, it included one eyebrow-raising line item: it assumed that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could return $191.2 billion in profits to the US Treasury over the next decade if they continue operating under federal conservatorship.

The item gave the commercial real estate industry pause for a few reasons. This number 1) assumes the GSEs will remain under federal conservatorship 2) it assumes that the lawsuits filed by GSE shareholders disgruntled by the government’s decision to sweep all profits from the GSEs back to the US Treasury will go nowhere 3) it assumes the GSEs will continue to bring in record profits.

Of all of these, the latter supposition is the least controversial.

The two GSEs have paid back more than what their received in federal aid; Fannie Mae has sent back the government $134.5 billion in payments compared to $116.1 billion it received, while Freddie Mac has sent $91 billion compared to $72.3 billion it received in rescue funds.

This cash flow is one reason why some in the industry quietly speculate that the government has little intention of cutting the GSEs loose to be privatized—despite the stated intention of the Obama Administration to do so.

Also, consider that the government can basically set the GSEs’ profit levels, David Reiss, professor of Law and research director for the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School, tells GlobeSt.com.

“Their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, sets the amount of their guarantee fee. If the FHFA raises it, it tends to raise profits for the two companies,” he notes.

The FHFA also sets, within limits, the types of mortgages the GSEs can buy, thereby increasing the size of the total market and the market share of the two entities, Reiss continues. “For instance, the FHFA recently lowered the down payment requirements for Fannie/Freddie loans. This action will increase the total number of loans made and will also increase Fannie and Freddie’s market share because they can now operate in a part of the market that had been off limits.”

February 9, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

February 9, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

February 6, 2015

Here Comes The Housing Trust Fund

By David Reiss

HUD has published an interim rule in the Federal Register to governing the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF could generate about a half a billion dollars a year for affordable housing initiatives, so this is a big deal. The purpose “of the HTF is to provide grants to State governments to increase and preserve the supply of rental housing for extremely low- and very low-income families, including homeless families, and to increase homeownership for extremely low- and very low-income families.” (80 F.R. 5200) HUD intends to “open this interim rule for public comment to solicit comments once funding is available and the grantees gain experience administering the HTF program.” (80 F.R. 5200)

The HTF’s main focus is rental housing, which often gets short shrift in federal housing policy

States and State-designated entities are eligible grantees for HTF. Annual formula grants will be made, of which at least 80 percent must be used for rental housing; up to 10 percent for homeownership; and up to 10 percent for the grantee’s reasonable administrative and planning costs. HTF funds may be used for the production or preservation of affordable housing through the acquisition, new construction, reconstruction, and/or rehabilitation of nonluxury housing with suitable amenities. (80 F.R. 5200)

Many aspects of federal housing policy are effectively redistributions of income to upper income households. The largest of these redistributions is the mortgage interest deduction.  Households earning over $100,000 per year receive more than three quarters of the benefits of that deduction while those earning less than $50,000 receive close to none of them.

So, the HTF is a double win for a rational federal housing policy because it focuses on (i) rental housing for (ii) extremely low- and very low-income households.

While not wanting to be a downer about such a victory for affordable housing, I will note that Glaeser and Gyourko have demonstrated how local land use policies can run counter to federal affordable housing policy. Might be worth it for federal housing policy makers to pay more attention to that dynamic . . ..

February 6, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments