District Court Dismisses Disparate Impact Claim under the Fair Housing Act

In The Inclusive Cmtys. Project, Inc. v. The Tex. Dep’t of Hous. and Cmty., No. 3:08-cv-00546-D (N.D. Tex. Aug. 26, 2016), on remand from the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit, the district court dismissed claims of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) where the plaintiff alleged that the defendant allocated two different types of tax credits in a manner that perpetuated racial segregation. The district court applied the Supreme Court’s previously explained three-part burden-shifting framework to analyze the plaintiff’s claim, and determined that, among other things, the plaintiff’s claim failed to show a “specific, facially neutral policy” causing a racially disparate impact. The court reasoned that “[b]y relying simply on [the defendant’s] exercise of discretion in awarding tax credits, [the plaintiff] has not isolated and identified the specific practice that caused the disparity in the location of low-income housing…. [The plaintiff] cannot rely on this generalized policy of discretion to prove disparate impact.” The district court further reasoned that because the plaintiff had not “sufficiently identified a specific, facially-neutral policy that has caused a statistically disparity,” the court could not “fashion a remedy that removes that policy.”  The district court concluded that the plaintiff “failed to prove a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that a challenged practice caused a discriminatory effect” and entered judgment in favor of the defendants.

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Top 20 Bank Settles with DOJ Over Alleged Violations of the False Claims Act

On September 13, the DOJ announced a $52.4 million settlement with a top 20 bank to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly originating and accepting FHA-insured mortgage loans that did not comply with HUD origination, underwriting, and quality control requirements. It is the smallest settlement of a False Claims Act FHA-insured mortgage loans case against a bank to date as part of the government’s recent enforcement initiative in this area. According to the Statement of Facts issued as part of the settlement agreement, from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2011 (relevant time period), the bank, while acting as a direct endorsement lender (DEL) in the FHA program, (i) certified certain mortgage loans for FHA insurance that failed to meet HUD underwriting requirements regarding borrower creditworthiness; (ii) failed to adhere to various HUD quality control requirements; and (iii) failed to adhere to HUD’s self-reporting requirements. The DOJ noted that the “claims asserted against [the bank] are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.” BuckleySandler represented the bank in this matter.

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HUD OIG Sends Letter to House Committee on Financial Services Regarding Funding Arrangements in Certain Housing Finance Agency Down Payment Assistance Programs

On July 26, HUD OIG (OIG) Inspector General David A. Montoya sent a letter to Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, regarding OIG’s continuing opposition to certain down payment assistance (DPA) programs. The letter reiterates OIG’s previously stated position that certain DPA programs used for loans sold on the secondary market violate the National Housing Act (NHA) and the Housing Economic and Recovery Act (HERA) by reimbursing prohibited parties for providing part of the required minimum investment funds. According to the letter, more than 60,000 FHA loans are originated per year using this borrower-reimbursed funding arrangement. HUD had previously investigated the OIG criticisms of these loans made in conjunction with local HFAs and had determined that these programs do not violate relevant HUD requirements. In the letter, Montoya critiques that determination and attempts to continue this disagreement between HUD program officials and the OIG.

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FHA Updates Initial and Annual Lender Certification Language

On August 1, HUD announced that FHA updated its lender-level certification statements. Pursuant to the Single Family Housing Policy Handbook 4000.1, all lenders seeking FHA approval must complete the Initial Certification as part of the online application process, and all FHA-approved lenders must complete the Annual Certification at each fiscal year’s end thereafter. As outlined in FHA INFO 16-51, use of the revised certifications is mandatory beginning August 1, 2016. After that date, all new LEAP recertification packages will reflect the revised Annual Certification statements, and all lenders applying anew for FHA approval must complete the revised Initial Certification statements. FHA INFO 16-51 further notes that the revised language “may also affect some in-process applications.” FHA released separate documents for supervised/non-supervised mortgagees and investing and government mortgagees to outline the changes implemented. The changes included in the certification statements range from  rewording, reformatting, and the refining of policy citations to adding instructions, new requirements, and certain exemptions/qualifiers.

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FHA Ed Golding Issues Follow-Up Letter Regarding DPA Programs

On July 18, FHA’s Edward Golding issued a letter sharing HUD Secretary Nani Coloretti’s statement regarding recent events surrounding down payment assistance (DPA) programs. As previously covered in InfoBytes, Golding sent a letter on May 25 to stakeholders informing them that HUD had “determined that finance agency [DPA] programs are legal and consistent with the National Housing Act.” According to the recent July 18  letter, Secretary Coloretti wishes to make clear that HUD does not endorse unlawful practices. She also noted that the HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG) continues to investigate alleged inappropriate practices and that HUD will look separately into “the extent to which government-sponsored Down Payment Assistance (DPA) programs fully informed borrowers of the loan terms, or imposed inappropriate fees or costs, or enabled steering or any other coercion of borrowers.” Coloretti also reiterated that HUD supports DPA Programs and that they “enable access to credit that allows American families to purchase homes.”

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