REFinBlog

Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 26, 2017

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • Businesses in Ohio would like the state to do a better job of supporting the residents of the state in their housing efforts. “The Home Matters to Ohio coalition” is urging the state to pour 15 million dollars into matters regarding homelessness and affordable housing.
  • Paycheck to Paycheck: More than Housing” is a report analyzing the salaries of individuals and their household expenses regarding transportation and household needs.
  • Trump took office and quickly began making changes that affect homeowners. Within Trump’s first hour, he “suspended the FHA mortgage insurance.” This insurance was in place to save homeowners hundreds of dollars.

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January 26, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

January 25, 2017

HUD, Exit Stage Left

By David Reiss

photo by Gage Skidmore

Obama HUD Secretary Julián Castro

President Obama had members of his Cabinet write Exit Memos that set forth their vision for their agencies. Julián Castro, his Secretary of HUD, titled his Housing as a Platform for Opportunity. It is worth a read as a roadmap of a progressive housing agenda. While it clearly will carry little weight over the next few years, it will become relevant once the political winds shift back, as they always do. Castro writes,

Every year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) creates opportunity for more than 30 million Americans, including more than 11.6 million children. That support ranges from assisting someone in critical need with emergency shelter for a night to helping more than 7.8 million homeowners build intergenerational wealth. Simply put, HUD provides a passport to the middle class.

HUD is many things but, most of all, it is the Department of Opportunity. Everything we did in the last eight years was oriented to bring greater opportunity to the people we serve every day. That includes the thousands of public housing residents who now have access to high-speed Internet through ConnectHome. It includes the more than 1.2 million borrowers in 2016 – more than 720,000 of them first-time homebuyers – who reached their own American Dream because of the access to credit the Federal Housing Administration provides. And it includes the hundreds of thousands of veterans since 2010 who are no longer experiencing homelessness and are now better positioned to achieve their full potential in the coming years.

Our nation’s economy benefits from HUD’s work. As our nation recovered from the Great Recession, HUD was a driving force in stabilizing the housing market. When natural disasters struck, as with Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast, the historic flooding in Louisiana, and many other major disasters – HUD helped the hardest-hit communities to rebuild, cumulatively investing more than $18 billion in those areas, and making it possible for folks to get back in their homes and back to work. And when we invested those dollars, we encouraged communities not just to rebuild, but to rebuild in more resilient ways. The $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition demonstrated our commitment to encourage communities to build infrastructure that can better withstand the next storm and reduce the costs to the American taxpayer.

Housing is a platform for greater opportunity because it is so interconnected with health, safety, education, jobs and equality. We responded to the threat posed by lead-contaminated homes by launching a forthcoming expansion of critical protections for children and families in federally assisted housing. And we finally fulfilled the full obligation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act by putting into practice the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule to ensure that one day a child’s zip code won’t determine his or her future.

Much has been accomplished during the Obama Administration, but new challenges are on the horizon, including a severely aging public housing stock and an affordable housing crisis in many areas of the country. Just as HUD provided necessary reinforcement to the housing market during the latest economic crisis, this vital Department will be crucial to the continued improvement of the American economy and the security of millions of Americans in the years to come. (2)

There is a fair amount of puffery in this Exit Memo, but that is to be expected in a document of this sort. it does, however, set forth a comprehensive of policies that the next Democratic administration is sure to consider. If you want an overview of HUD’s reach, give it a read.

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January 25, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Jamila Moore

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January 25, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

January 24, 2017

Can Fannie and Freddie Be Privatized?

By David Reiss

Kroll Bond Rating Agency posted Housing Reform 2017: Can the GSEs be Privatized? The big housing finance reform question is whether there is now sufficient consensus in Washington to determine the fate of Fannie and Freddie, now approaching their ninth year in conservatorship.

Kroll concludes,

The Mortgage Bankers Association sends a very clear message about privatizing the GSEs: It will raise rates for homeowners and add systemic risk back into the financial system. Why do we need to fix a proven market mechanism that is not broken? KBRA believes that if Mr. Mnuchin and the President-elect truly want to encourage the growth of a private market for U.S. mortgages, then they must accept that true privatization of the GSEs that eliminates any government guarantee would fundamentally change the mortgage market.

The privatization of the GSEs implies, in the short term at least, a significant decrease in the financing available to the U.S. housing market. In the absence of a TBA market, no coupon would be high enough to support the entire range of demand for mortgage finance, only pockets of higher quality loans as with the jumbo mortgage market today. Unless the U.S. moved to the Danish model with 100% variable rate notes, no nonbank could fund the production of home mortgages efficiently and commercial banks are unlikely to pick up the slack for the reasons discussed above.

In the event of full privatization of the GSEs, private loans will have significantly higher cost for consumers and offer equally more attractive returns for financial institutions and end investors, a result that would generate enormous political opposition among the numerous constituencies in the housing market. Needless to say, getting such a proposal through Congress should prove to be quite an achievement indeed. (4)

I disagree with Kroll’s framing of the issue:  “Why do we need to fix a proven market mechanism that is not broken?” To describe Fannie and Freddie as “not broken” seems farcical to me. They are in a state of limbo with extraordinary backing from the federal government. It might be that we would want to continue them with much the same functionality that they currently have, but we would still want this transition to be done intentionally.  Nobody, but nobody, was thinking that putting them into conservatorship was the end game,

While the current structure has some advantages over privatization, the reverse is true too.  The greatest benefit of privatization is getting rid of the taxpayer backstop in case of a failure by one or both of the companies.

We shouldn’t be saying — hey, what we have now is good enough. Rather, we should be asking — what do we expect out of our housing finance system and how do we get it?

There appears to be a broad consensus to reduce taxpayer exposure to a bailout.  There also appears to be a broad consensus (one that I do not support as broadly as others) to protect the 30 year fixed rate mortgage that remains so popular in the United States.

Industry insiders believe that a fully private system would not provide sufficient capital for the mortgage market. They are also concerned that a fully private system would put the kibosh on the To Be Announced (TBA) market that provides so much stability for the mortgage origination process.

A thoughtful reform proposal could incorporate all of these concerns while also clearing away the sticky problems built into the Fannie/Freddie model of housing finance.

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is not a good enough philosophy after we have lived through the financial crisis. We should focus on the big questions of what we want from our 21st century housing finance system and then design a system that will implement it accordingly.

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January 24, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • Mayor Richard Tran of Milpitas, CA promised voters in a recent election that he would ensure the city possessed more affordable housing for elders and low income communities. However, since taking office, Tran faces the limiting practicality of his plan with the California’s which bans affordable housing rules on newer units less than 20 years old. As a result, Tran is meeting with fellow council member to determine ways to address this issue and possibly change the law.
  • For 2017, the state of Washington Housing Commission launched the campaign, “There’s No Place Like Home.” This program attempts to mitigate issues with real estate taxes, education and homelessness, and foreclosures.

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January 24, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

January 23, 2017

Mortgage Moves in 2017

By David Reiss

MortgageLoan.com quoted me in Three Mortgage Moves o Consider in 2017. It opens,

How much do you think about your mortgage? Probably not much at all.

But financial professionals say that homeowners can save money, lower the amount of interest they pay each year and maybe free up some extra cash, all by tweaking their mortgages, whether they are paying off a conventional loan, FHA mortgage or VA loan.

If you’ve gotten into the habit of ignoring your mortgage, it’s time to take a look at what is probably your biggest financial obligation. Here are three suggestions from mortgage lenders and financial pros to use your mortgage to better your finances in 2017.

Going Short-Term

Are you paying off a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage? It might be time to refinance that loan, not for the benefit of lower interest rates but to turn your mortgage into one with a shorter term.

Turning your loan from a 30-year version to a 15-year one will result in a higher monthly mortgage payment. But you’ll also dramatically reduce the amount of interest you’ll have to pay over the life of your loan. Mortgage rates with 15-year, fixed-rate loans are lower than the ones attached to longer-term loans, too.

“Going shorter term is a big financial benefit,” said Jason Zimmer, president of Lockport, Illinois-based Parlay Mortgage. “The 15-year loan is where you want to go. You can save so much money.”

Look at the financial difference: Say you are paying off a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage of $250,000 at an interest rate of 4.09 percent. Your monthly payment, not including property taxes or insurance, will be about $1,200. But you’ll pay a total of $184,000 in interest if you take the entire 30 years to pay off your loan.

But say you now owe $225,000 on that same loan. If you refinance that amount to a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate of 3.33 percent, your monthly payment, not including taxes and insurance, will jump to just under $1,600. But if you take the full 15 years to pay off this loan, you’ll only pay about $61,000 in interest, a huge savings from that 30-year loan.

“Lots of people don’t consider a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage for a refinance because they knew they could not afford one when they bought their house in the first place,” said David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School in New York City. “But if you have had your house for more than a couple of years, and your income has increased in the interim, refinancing into a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage can be a great way to get a lower interest rate and pay a lot less interest in the long run.”

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January 23, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • J.P. Morgan Chase settled a case against them for allegedly charging African Americans and Hispanics higher mortgage rates. This 53 million dollar settlement comes from the company’s practices just three years after the U.S. housing market crash.
  • A Texas developer is suing the city of Dallas; however, a Texas justice refused to hear the case. Local developers claim the city built a library on the land in violation of the deed.
  • Pennsylvania state senators recently became involved in a lawsuit between a landowner and Delaware River Basin Commission’s for the commission’s fracking venture. The senators allege that the state did not give the commission the proper authority.

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January 23, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments