Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

January 8, 2013

Republicans Issue Report Critical of CFPB’s Regulation of Mortgage Markets

By David Reiss

The staff of the House’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a report that argues that the CFPB is “predisposed to limit access to credit;”  “will increase regulatory burdens and reduce credit availability;” and has inadequate mechanisms to “detect access to credit impediments.”  As to mortgage markets in particular, it argues that

Lenders are reportedly requiring the highest credit scores in a decade to approve home mortgages, with an average credit score of 737 for borrowers approved for a home loan in 2011.22. The international capital guidelines outlined in the Basel III capital accords have also made mortgage loans less worthwhile for banks. An April 2012 Federal Reserve survey found that 83 percent of banks were less likely to originate a GSE-eligible 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for a borrower with a credit score of 620 and a 10 percent down payment than they were in 2006. Roughly 70 percent of those banks surveyed blamed regulatory and legislative changes for restricting lending. (3-4, footnotes omitted)

It continues,

the CFPB is currently considering a mortgage rule that would require a lender to verify a borrower’s ability to repay a mortgage unless the loan satisfies the definition of a “qualified mortgage.” According to Frank Keating, CEO of the American Bankers Association, the rule could “make borrowing more expensive and credit less available. Some lenders may leave the market altogether.” The rule could also increase the cost of mortgage lending, reduce consumer choice, and make it harder for consumers to compare mortgage options. If the CFPB is not careful, these rules could make it more difficult – if not impossible – for millions of Americans to purchase homes. (11, footnotes omitted)

The analysis in this staff report strikes me as fundamentally unsophisticated as it does not draw a distinction between sustainable credit and unsustainable credit.  The last bubble was driven by credit that was extended to people who could not repay it.  There is no reason we would want to see a return to those practices.

The question should be — what regulations allow for a healthy mortgage market where careful lenders make loans to creditworthy borrowers?

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