REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 31, 2017

Mortgage Bankers and GSE Reform

By David Reiss

photo by Daniel Case

The Mortgage Bankers Association has released GSE Reform Principles and Guardrails. It opens,

This paper serves as an introduction to MBA’s recommended approach to GSE reform. Its purpose is to outline what MBA views as the key components of an end state, the principles that MBA believes should be incorporated in any future system, the “guardrails” we believe are necessary in our end state, as well as emphasize the need to ensure a smooth transition to the new secondary mortgage market. (1)

While there is very little that is new in this document, it is useful, nonetheless, as a statement of the industry’s position. The MBA has promulgated the following principles for housing finance reform:

  • The 30-year, fixed-rate, pre-payable single-family mortgage and longterm financing for multifamily mortgages should be preserved.
  • A deep, liquid TBA market for conventional single-family loans must be maintained. Eligible MBS backed by a well-defined pool of single-family mortgages or multifamily mortgages should receive an explicit government guarantee, funded by appropriately priced insurance premiums, to attract global capital and preserve liquidity during times of stress. The government guarantee should attach to the eligible MBS only, not to the guarantors or their debt.
  • The availability of affordable housing, both owned and rented, is vitally important; these needs should be addressed along a continuum, incorporating both single- and multifamily approaches for homeowners and renters.
  • The end-state system should facilitate equitable, transparent and direct access to secondary market programs for lenders of all sizes and business models.
  • A robust, innovative and purely private market should be able to co-exist alongside the government-backed market.
  • Existing multifamily financing executions should be preserved, and new options should be permitted.
  • The end-state system should rely on strong, transparent regulation and private capital (including primary-market credit enhancement such as mortgage insurance [MI] and lender recourse, or other available forms of credit risk transfer) primarily assuming most of the risk.
  • While the system will primarily rely on private capital, there should be a provision for a deeper level of government support in the event of a systemic crisis.
  • There should be a “bright line” between the primary and secondary mortgage markets, applying to both allowable activities and scope of regulation.
  • Transition risks to the new end-state model should be minimized, with special attention given to avoiding any operational disruptions. (3-4)

This set of principles reflect the bipartisan consensus that had been developing around the Johnson-Crapo and Corker-Warner housing reform bills. The ten trillion dollar question, of course, is whether the Trump Administration and Congressional leaders like Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the Chair of the House Banking Committee, are going to go along with the mortgage finance industry on this or whether they will push for a system with far less government involvement than is contemplated by the MBA.

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January 31, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Roundup

By Robert Engelke

  • The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to move the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development amid concerns from some about his lack of experience in housing issues.
  • President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday morning to significantly roll back regulations, following through on claims that he would be “cutting regulation massively.” According to the executive order, “It is the policy of the executive branch to be prudent and financially responsible in the expenditure of funds, from both public and private sources.” Link to article on Housing Wire for more.
  • But executive orders are just the preamble to the big initiatives that Trump and the Republican majority in Congress are expected to push for shortly. Chief among those is the “dismantling” of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. During the presidential transition, Trump’s transition team stated that dismantling Dodd-Frank would be one of the president’s main priorities. And on Thursday, the American public got a reminder that the president and his party plan to keep that promise. Link to Housing Wire article here

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January 31, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

January 30, 2017

What Is at Stake with the FHA?

By David Reiss

The Hill published my column, The Future of American Home Ownership Under President Trump. It reads, 

One of the Trump Administration’s first official actions was to reverse the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance premium cut that was announced in the last days of President Obama’s term.  This is a pretty obscure action for Trump to lead with in his first week in office, so it is worth understanding what is at stake with the FHA and what it may tell about the future of homeownership in the United States. 

The FHA has roots that stretch back to the Great Depression.  It was created to provide liquidity in a mortgage market that was frozen over and to encourage consumer-friendly practices in the Wild West mortgage and home construction markets of the early 20th century.  It was a big success on both fronts

After the Great Depression, the federal government deployed the FHA to achieve a variety of other social goals, such as supporting civilian mobilization during World War II, helping veterans returning from the War, stabilizing urban housing markets during the 1960s, and expanding minority homeownership rates during the 1990s. It achieved success with some of these goals and had a terrible record with others, leading to high rates of default for some FHA programs.

In the last few years, there have been calls to significantly restrict the FHA’s activities because of some of its more recent failures. Trump’s policy decisions for the FHA will have a big impact on the nation’s homeownership rate, which is at its lowest in over 50 years. This is because the FHA is heavily relied upon by first-time homebuyers.

We do not yet have a good sense of how President Trump views the FHA because he had very little to say about housing policy during his campaign. And his choices to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, and the Treasury Department, Steven Mnuchin, had little to add on this subject during their Senate confirmation hearings.

The 2016 Republican Party Platform does, however, offer a sense of where we might be headed: “The Federal Housing Administration, which provides taxpayer-backed guarantees in the mortgage market, should no longer support high-income individuals, and the public should not be financially exposed by risks taken by FHA officials.”

This vague language refers to two concrete policies that have their roots in actions taken by the FHA during the Bush and Obama administrations. The reference to the support given to “high-income individuals” refers to the fact that Congress significantly raised FHA loan limits starting in 2008, so that the FHA could provide liquidity to a wider swath of the mortgage market. The GOP is right to question whether that the FHA still needs to provide insurance for $500,000 and more mortgages now that the market has stabilized.

The GOP’s statement that taxpayers “should not be financially exposed by risks taken by FHA officials” refers to the fact that the FHA had a lot of losses as a result of the financial crisis. These losses resulted in the FHA failing to meet its statutorily-required minimum capital ratio starting in 2009. In response to these losses, the FHA increased the mortgage insurance premiums it charged to borrowers.

While the FHA has been meeting its minimum capital ratio for the last couple of years, premiums have remained high compared to their pre-crisis levels. Thus, the GOP’s position appears to back off from support for homeownership, which has been a bipartisan goal for nearly 100 years.

The FHA should keep its premiums high enough to meet its capital requirements, but should otherwise promote homeownership with the lowest premiums it can responsibly charge. At the same time, FHA underwriting should be required to balance access to credit with households’ ability to make their mortgage payments over the long term. That way the FHA can extend credit responsibly to low- and moderate-income households while minimizing the likelihood of future bailouts by taxpayers.

This is the most responsible way for the Trump administration to rebuild sustainable homeownership for a large swath of Americans as we recover from the brutal and compounding effects of the subprime crisis, financial crisis and foreclosure crisis.

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January 30, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Robert Engelke

  • A California federal judge said Friday she will approve Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC’s $600,000 settlement resolving class action claims that it failed to apply certain mortgage payments to borrower accounts because of a software bug, calling the deal “an excellent result” for the roughly 9,000 class
  • A New York federal judge Monday preserved most of a suit claiming Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. failed to protect investors from over $1 trillion in losses due to poorly underwritten residential mortgage-backed securities, dismissing only the claims the bank had a conflict of interest

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January 30, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

January 27, 2017

Foreclosure or Short Sale?

By David Reiss

photo by Taber Andrew Bain

BeSmartee.com quoted me in Which One Is Worse: Foreclosure or Short Sale? It opens,

If you’re faced with either a foreclosure or a short sale situation and aren’t sure what to do, read on. We asked some experts which one is worse.

You might have thought that you became a homeowner the day you closed on your home, but that wasn’t exactly the case. Although your status became ”homeowner” as opposed to, maybe, ” renter ,” you don’t really own the home if you have a mortgage. A more accurate term for what you became that day would be ”home borrower.” This isn’t just being picky about semantics. There’s a reason for the distinction.

If you stop paying your mortgage , the real owner of the home, your mortgage lender, could take it back. This process is a foreclosure .

Another option that may be available to you if you can no longer (or no longer wish to) make your mortgage payments is a short sale . A short sale occurs when you sell your home for less than what you owe. Your lender must be on board with this for it to happen.

So which one is worse: foreclosure or short sale? Here are five considerations.

1. Your Credit Score

Your credit score will take a hit, and a huge hit at that, whether you have a foreclosure or short sale on your credit report. ”They are pretty much equally rotten as far as your credit score is concerned,” says David Reiss , professor of law at Brooklyn Law School.

But just how rotten are foreclosures and short sales to your credit? You can probably count on your score tanking somewhere between 100 and 160 points. And like the saying, ”The bigger they are the harder they fall,” the higher your credit score was before the foreclosure or short sale the larger the drop will be. But the good news is that with either a foreclosure or a short sale, you can start to see your score rise in just a couple of years if you continue to pay all your other bills on time, according to myFICO , the consumer division of FICO .

2. What Future Lenders Think

If you wish to get back into the housing game some day, whether you went through a foreclosure or a short sale matters to many lenders. ”There’s not as much of a stigma involved in selling a house via short sale as there is in losing it in a foreclosure proceeding,” says Rick Sharga, chief marketing officer at Ten-X, an online real estate transaction marketplace. ”A short sale indicated that the borrower was willing to work with the lender, and in fact, an active participant in trying to come up with a solution that worked as well as possible for all parties.”

” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac treat a foreclosure as worse than a short sale when it comes to future lending,” says Reiss. ”Fannie, for instance, won’t buy a mortgage from a lender who lent to someone who has gone through a foreclosure in the past three years in some cases (but as many as seven), but reduces that bar to two years for a short sale.”

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January 27, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Friday’s Government Reports Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • The U.S. Housing Department of Urban Development released a report analyzing mortgage and insurance rates under the National Housing Act.
  • Freddie Mac released a report detailing the effects of the increased mortgage backed security interests rates. Approximately 5 million hopeful homeowners refinancing plans are affected.

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January 27, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

January 26, 2017

Housing Tomorrow’s Seniors

By David Reiss

photo by Government of Alberta

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies has issued a report, Projections & Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Households 2015-2035. The report opens,

Over the next twenty years, the population aged 65 and over is expected to grow from 48 million to 79 million. Meanwhile, the number of households headed by someone in that age group will increase by 66 percent to almost 50 million—with the result that by 2035, an astounding one out of three American households will be headed by someone aged 65 or older.

Older adults’ homes and living situations are keys to their quality of life and capacity to live independently. The expansion of the older population will increase the need for affordable, accessible housing that is well-connected to services well beyond what current supply can meet. In addition, the home is an increasingly important setting for the delivery of long-term care, a trend likely to grow over the next two decades as millions more seek to remain in their current dwellings while coping with disabilities and health challenges.

Over the next two decades, many older households will have the financial means to secure housing and supportive services suited to their needs as they age. The focus for these households should be on making informed choices about potential living situations and locations, investments in home modifications, and care—before physical or financial needs become pressing.

Yet over the same period, millions of low-income older households will struggle to pay for appropriate housing and necessary supportive services. For these households, basic housing costs will drain resources needed to pay for home modifications or in-home services, and may force reductions in spending on critical needs like food and healthcare.

The nation is now at the beginning of a twenty-plus-year surge in the older population, and is thus at a critical point for putting in place the affordable housing options, accessibility features, and in-home care services that will be needed over the next two decades. Transportation and technologies to ensure people can remain engaged in their communities and access supportive services are also needed. While many older adults indicate that they prefer to age in their current residences, a wider array of housing types can offer safer, more affordable, and lower-maintenance homes within existing communities, improving housing situations without uprooting older adults from the places they have called home for years or even decades. (4-5)

The report obviously raises important points about the need to plan for the aging of the American population. I am not hopeful, however, that the federal government will be offering leadership on these issues. It will be up to the states to identify policies that the can implement. Some proposals that are worth a look include

  • providing incentives to include accessibility (or at least accessibility-ready) features in new construction;
  • strengthening the ties between health care and housing; and
  • increasing public awareness of the benefits of planning for the challenges of aging before they actually arrive.

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January 26, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments