Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

March 20, 2014

CFPB Strategy on Mortgage Data

By David Reiss

The CFPB released its Strategic Plan, Budget, and Performance Plan and Report which provides a good summary of what the Bureau has done to date. I was particularly interested in this summary of its work to build a representative database of mortgages:

In FY 2013, the CFPB began a partnership with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to build the National Mortgage Database (NMDB). This work continues in FY 2014. For this database, the FHFA and the Bureau have procured (from a credit reporting agency) credit information with respect to a random and representative sample of 5% of mortgages held by consumers. The NMDB is the first dataset that will provide a truly representative sample of mortgages so as to allow analysis of mortgages over the life of the loans, including firsts, seconds, and home equity loans.

In all of the data used for its analyses, the Bureau will work to ensure that strong protections are in place around personally identifiable information. (66)

Such a database (assuming privacy concerns are adequately addressed) will be an invaluable tool for the Bureau (and researchers too, to the extent that they are allowed to access it). One question that the Strategic Plan does not answer is how fresh will the mortgage data be. The mortgage market can innovate at warp speed, as it did in the mid-2000s, so it will be important for the CFPB database to be as current as possible and accessible to researchers as quickly as possible. That being said, even if the data is a bit stale, it will still provide invaluable guidance regarding abusive behaviors in the market. It should also provide guidance regarding a lack of sustainable credit in the market generally as well as within those communities that have historically suffered from such a lack, low- and moderate-income communities as well as communities of color.

On a separate note, I would say that the Strategic Plan makes some assumptions about the efficacy of financial education that should probably be studied carefully. There is a lot of research that challenges the usefulness of financial education. The Bureau should grapple with that research before it invests heavily in financial education implementation.

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