Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

December 6, 2017

Taking Down Barriers to Homeownership

By David Reiss

Laurie Goodman and her colleagues at the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center have released a report, Barriers to Accessing Homeownership Down Payment, Credit, and Affordability. The Executive Summary states that

Saving for a down payment is a considerable barrier to homeownership. With rising home prices, rising interest rates, and tight lending standards, the path to homeownership has become more challenging, especially for low-to-median-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers. Yet most potential homebuyers are largely unaware that there are low–down payment and no–down payment assistance programs available at the local, state, and federal levels to help eligible borrowers secure an appropriate down payment. This report provides charts and commentary to articulate the challenges families face saving for down payments as well as the options available to help them. This report is accompanied by an interactive map.

Barrier 1. Down Payments

• Consumers often think they need to put more down than lenders actually require. Survey results show that 53 percent of renters cite saving for a down payment as an obstacle to homeownership. Eighty percent of consumers either are unaware of how much lenders require for a down payment or believe all lenders require a down payment above 5 percent. Fifteen percent believe lenders require a 20 percent down payment, and 30 percent believe lenders expect a 20 percent down payment.

• Contrary to consumer perceptions, borrowers are not actually putting down 20 percent. The national median loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is 93 percent. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) typically offer lower down payment options than the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), from 0 to 3.5 percent. As the share of FHA and VA lending has increased considerably in the post-crisis period (since 2008), the median LTV ratio has increased as well.

*    *    *

Barrier 2. The Credit Box

• Access to homeownership is not limited by down payments alone. Credit access is tight by historical standards. Accordingly, the median credit score of new purchase mortgage originations has increased considerably in the post-crisis period. The median credit score for purchase mortgages is 779, compared with the pre-crisis median of 692. Credit scores of FHA borrowers have historically been lower; the current median credit score is 671.

*    *    *

Barrier 3. Affordability

• Because of home price appreciation in the past five years, national home price affordability has declined. Low interest rates have aided affordability. If interest rates reach 4.75 percent, national affordability will return to historical average affordability.

*    *    *

Access to Down Payment Assistance

• Low–down payment mortgages and other down payment assistance programs provide grants or loans to potential homeowners all over the country. There are 2,144 active programs across the country, and 1,295 agencies and housing finance agencies offering them at the local, state, and national levels. One of the major challenges of the offerings in each state is that they are not standard, eligibility requirements vary, and not all lenders offer the programs. Pricing for the programs also vary, so counseling and consumer education about the programs is necessary to ensure consumers understand how the program works and any additional costs that may be incurred.

*    *    *

• Eligibility for down payment assistance programs is determined by such factors as loan amount, homebuyer status, borrower income, and family size. Assistance is available for many loan types including conventional, FHA, VA, and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans. The share of people eligible for assistance in select MSAs ranges from 30 to 52 percent, and the eligible borrowers could qualify for 3 to 12 programs with down payment assistance ranging from $2,000 to more than $30,000.

Because of the tight credit environment, many borrowers have been shut out of the market and have not been able to take advantage of low interest rates and affordable home prices. As the credit box opens, educating consumers about low–down payment mortgages and down payment assistance is critical to ensuring homeownership is available to more families. (V-VI, emphasis removed)

December 6, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

December 5, 2017

Buying after Bankruptcy

By David Reiss quoted me in Buying a House After Bankruptcy? How Long to Wait and What to Do. It opens,

Buying a house after bankruptcy may sound like an impossible feat. Blame it on all those Monopoly games, but bankruptcy has a very bad rap, painting the filer as someone who should never be loaned money. The reality is that of the 800,000 Americans who file for bankruptcy every year, most are well-intentioned, responsible people to whom life threw a curveball that made them struggle to pay off past debts.

Sometimes filing for bankruptcy is the only way out of a crushing financial situation, and taking this step can really help these cash-strapped individuals get back on their feet. And yes, many go on to eventually buy a home. Only how?

Being aware of what a lender expects post-bankruptcy will help you navigate the mortgage application process efficiently and effectively. Here are the steps on buying a house after bankruptcy, and the top things you need to know.

Types of bankruptcy: The best and the worst

There are two ways to file for bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. With Chapter 7, filers are typically released from their obligation to pay back unsecured debt—think credit cards, medical bills, or loans extended without collateral. Chapter 13 filers have to pay back their debt, only it’s reorganized to come up with a new repayment schedule that makes monthly payments more affordable.

Since Chapter 13 filers are still paying back their debts, mortgage lenders generally look more favorably on these consumers than those who file for Chapter 7, says David Carey, vice president and residential lending manager at New York’s Tompkins Mahopac Bank.

How long after bankruptcy should you wait before buying a house?

Most people applying for a loan will need to wait two years after bankruptcy before lenders will consider their application. That said, it could be up to a four-year ban, depending on the individual and type of loan. This is because lenders have different “seasoning” requirements, which is a specified amount of time that needs to pass.

Fannie Mae, for example, has a minimum two-year ban on borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy, says David Reiss, professor of law and academic programs director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. The FHA, on the other hand, has a minimum one-year ban in place after a bankruptcy. The time is measured starting from the date of discharge or dismissal of the bankruptcy action. Generally the more time that passes, the less risky a once-bankrupt borrower looks in the eyes of a lender.

December 5, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • The Senate’s version of its tax reform bill will increase the nation’s debt. Their plan as written, increases the deficit by more than $1 trillion. The Senate’s vote on the bill narrowly passed with a 51-49 vote in favor of the bill. Though the bill garnered enough support from Republicans, it did not garner one vote from Democrats. Further, one of the proposed cuts contributing to the national deficit is the corporate tax cut. Supporters of the bill believe the government will recoup the funds lost by the tax cut through the corporation’s investment into the economy. However, only time will determine if such result is plausible.
  • The House of Representatives recently passed a bill revising the federal rules concerning home mortgage loans regarding various manufactured-home makers. Democrats do not support the bill and believe that the revision will expose consumers to predatory practices by lenders. Critics argue the bill unravels the rules and procedures put in place by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Obama Administration.

December 5, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

December 4, 2017

Net Losses in FHA’s Annual Management Report

By David Reiss

The Federal Housing Administration released its Annual Management Report for Fiscal Year 2017. As always, it is good to review what the FHA has accomplished and the challenges it faces:

FHA is the largest provider of mortgage insurance in the world. Since its inception, FHA has insured over 47.5 million single family homes and 48 thousand multifamily and healthcare project mortgages. Through its insurance programs, FHA supports the homeownership goals of qualified individuals and families, and enables multifamily and hospital production that meets the needs of communities across the country. Over the course of its history, FHA has been a critical player in the U.S. housing market, including serving millions of first-time and low-to-moderate income homebuyers; stepping in as a countercyclical backstop during times of economic stress; and providing relief to borrowers affected by disasters. In addition, through housing counseling programs, FHA also offers assistance to individuals and families to help them make independent financial decisions that can lead to greater long-term financial success. (5)

Some of the data highlights from the report include the following:

  • The FHA has over $1.38 trillion in insurance-in-force
  • In fiscal year 2017, FHA endorsed 1,246,440 single family forward mortgages totaling $251 billion.
  • 82.2 percent of FHA purchase-loan endorsements were for first-time homebuyers.
  • 33.7 percent of all borrowers (both home purchase and refinance) were minority borrowers.
  • The number of FHA forward mortgage borrowers in fiscal year 2017 classified as low or moderate-income households represented 56.4 percent of all such households purchasing or refinancing their homes nationwide.
  • Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (also known as reverse mortgage) endorsements increased from 48,868 to 55,291.

I was confused by the following passage and would love to hear from FHA nerds who can explain it to me:

In fiscal year 2017, FHA reported a net loss. The most important facet of FHA’s cost and revenue activity is the treatment of loan guarantee subsidy cost. Loan guarantee subsidy cost is the estimated long-term cost to FHA of a loan guarantee calculated on a net present value basis, excluding administrative costs. The cost of a loan guarantee is the net present value of the estimated cash flows paid by FHA to cover claims, interest subsidies, and other requirements as well as payments made to FHA, including premiums, penalties, and recoveries also included in the calculation.

FHA had a net program loss in fiscal year 2017. Single Family and HECM Gross Costs with the Public increased by $17,845 million and $22,213 million, respectively. The program cost difference is primarily due to the increases in the re-estimates and interest expenses relating to Single Family and HECM. Re-estimates are the recalculation of subsidy costs and are performed annually. The increases in re-estimate and interest expenses were the primary drivers for the over-all program cost increase in fiscal year 2017, compared to fiscal year 2016. (49)

I am not sure how serious of a problem this is and have not heard about it from any news outlets. If any readers can shed some light on it, it would be much appreciated.

December 4, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments

Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

By Jamila Moore

  • The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the conviction of a Florida resident, Ravindranauth Roopnarine, for his attempt to defraud the government. The Florida man received an approximate sentence of 22 years. Furthermore, he must pay a sum of more than $9 million in restitution for his mortgage fraud scheme.
  • In effort to decrease its own liability, Wells Fargo Bank NA filed a “Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Motion.” Wells Fargo Bank NA asserted its adversaries were attempting to diminish their role in the mishandling of 12 residential mortgage-backed securities trusts.
  • A Kansas based bank, Lawrence, settled a claim with the Federal Reserve for $2.8 million. Lawrence allegedly defrauded homebuyers by misrepresenting terms of their mortgages. The $2.8 million will go towards repaying homeowners for their funds slated to their “discount points.”

December 4, 2017 | Permalink | 2 Comments

December 1, 2017

Mooting The CFPB Constitutional Challenge

By David Reiss

Law360 quoted me in DC Circ. May Skip CFPB Fight After Cordray’s Exit. It opens,

The legal battle over who will temporarily lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau comes as the D.C. Circuit is considering whether the bureau’s structure is constitutional, and experts say the fight over its leadership could lead the appeals court to punt on the constitutional question.

The full D.C. Circuit has been considering an appeal filed by mortgage servicer PHH Corp. to overturn a $109 million judgment entered by former CFPB Director Richard Cordray over alleged violations of anti-kickback provisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. PHH’s argument is that the agency’s structure, which includes a single director rather than a commission along with independent funding not appropriated by Congress, is unconstitutional.

But now that a political and legal fight has broken out over who should temporarily lead the CFPB since Cordray has left the bureau, the D.C. Circuit may be even more inclined to find a way to decide the underlying arguments about the CFPB’s enforcement of a decades-old mortgage law without touching the constitutional questions.

“If the D.C. Circuit wants to avoid this question, they certainly have plausible means to do it,” said Brian Knight, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

The battle over the CFPB’s constitutionality waged by PHH in some ways opened the door for the current conflict over who should serve as the bureau’s acting director.

PHH’s fight with the CFPB stems from Cordray’s decision to jack up a RESPA penalty against the New Jersey-based mortgage company in June 2015.

A CFPB administrative law judge had originally issued a $6.4 million judgement against PHH over alleged mortgage kickbacks, but on appeal Cordray slapped the company with a $109 million penalty.

PHH then took its case to the D.C. Circuit, arguing that the single-director structure at the CFPB, which allowed Cordray to unilaterally hike the penalty, was a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers clause.

Ultimately, a three-judge panel led by U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh found that the CFPB’s structure was unconstitutional but declined to eliminate the bureau and invalidate its actions. Instead, the panel elected to eliminate a provision that only allowed the president to fire the CFPB director for cause, rather than allowing the director to be fired at will by the president.

The original, now vacated, D.C. Circuit decision also overturned the CFPB’s penalty against PHH. That portion of the decision was unanimous.

The CFPB then sought an en banc review of the decision, with oral arguments held in May. Since then, the CFPB and the industry have waited for a decision.

In fact, the wait for that decision may have allowed Cordray to hang on as long as he did at the CFPB. Trump was expected to fire Cordray soon after taking office, but that never happened, and instead Cordray waited until November to depart the bureau for what many believe will be a run for governor in his home state of Ohio.

Many predicted the D.C. Circuit would go the route of U.S. Circuit Judge Karen L. Henderson, a member of the original panel that ruled in the PHH litigation. Judge Henderson dissented on the constitutional question but supported the decision on RESPA enforcement.

“You arguably don’t have to reach the constitutional question,” said Christopher Walker, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz School of Law.

But the D.C. Circuit’s decision comes as two individuals argue over which one of them is the CFPB’s rightful acting director.

Cordray last Friday promoted his chief of staff, Leandra English, to be the CFPB’s deputy director just moments before he formally announced his departure. Cordray and English argue that the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, made the deputy director the acting director in his absence.

Hours later, Trump appointed Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a fierce CFPB opponent, to be the federal consumer finance watchdog’s acting director under a different federal law.

English sued to block Mulvaney’s appointment, and although the case will continue, a judge on Tuesday rejected her request for a temporary restraining order.

Against that backdrop, the D.C. Circuit may have more of an incentive to lie low on the constitutional questions, said Brooklyn Law School professor David Reiss.

“My reading would be that if they reversed the agency on the RESPA issues, then they may be able to moot the constitutional issues,” he said.

December 1, 2017 | Permalink | No Comments