Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

March 15, 2016

Did Dodd-Frank Make Getting a Mortgage Harder?

By David Reiss

Christopher Dodd

Christopher Dodd

Barney Frank




The short answer is — No. The longer answer is — No, but . . .

Bing Bai, Laurie Goodman and Ellen Seidman of the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center have posted Has the QM Rule Made it Harder to Get a Mortgage? The QM rule was originally authorized by Dodd-Frank and was implemented in January of 2014, more than two years ago. The paper opens,

the qualified mortgage (QM) rule was designed to prevent borrowers from acquiring loans they cannot afford and to protect lenders from potential borrower litigation. Many worry that the rule has contributed to the well-documented reduction in mortgage credit availability, which has hit low-income and minority borrowers the hardest. To explore this concern, we recently updated our August 2014 analysis of the impact of the QM rule. Our analysis of the rule at the two-year mark again finds it has had little impact on the availability of mortgage credit. Though the share of mortgages under $100,000 has decreased, this change can be largely attributed to the sharp rise in home prices. (1, footnotes omitted)

The paper looks at “four potential indicators of the QM rule’s impact:”

  1.  Fewer interest-only and prepayment penalty loans: The QM rule disqualifies loans that are interest-only (IO) or have a prepayment penalty (PP), so a reduction in these loans might show QM impact.
  2. Fewer loans with debt-to-income ratios above 43 percent: The QM rule disqualifies loans with a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio above 43 percent, so a reduction in loans with DTIs above 43 percent might show QM impact.
  3. Reduced adjustable-rate mortgage share: The QM rule requires that an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) be underwritten to the maximum interest rate that could be charged during the loan’s first five years. Generally, this restriction should deter lenders, so a reduction in the ARM share might show QM impact.
  4. Fewer small loans: The QM rule’s 3 percent limit on points and fees could discourage lenders from making smaller loans, so a reduction in smaller loans might show QM impact. (1-2)

The authors find no impact on on interest only loans or prepayment penalty loans; loans with debt-to-income ratios greater than 43 percent; or adjustable rate mortgages.

While these findings seem to make sense, it is important to note that the report uses 2013 as its baseline for mortgage market conditions. The report does acknowledge that credit availability was tight in 2013, but it implies that 2013 is the appropriate baseline from which to evaluate the QM rule. I am not so sure that this right — I would love to see some modeling that shows the impact of the QM rule under various credit availability scenarios, not just the particularly tight credit box of 2013.

To be clear, I agree with the paper’s policy takeaway — the QM rule can help prevent “risky lending practices that could cause another downturn.” (8) But we should be making these policy decisions with the best possible information.

| Permalink