On June 30, HUD announced a series of changes to its Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP). Last year, HUD updated DASP to (i) extend the time period preventing foreclosure after the note is sold from six months to one year; (ii) require servicers to evaluate borrowers for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) or a substantially similar modification; and (iii) implement non-profit only sales. In accordance with the most recent changes to DASP, “[c]ertain families with distressed mortgages insured by the [FHA] may soon be eligible for a reduction of their outstanding loan amounts should their mortgages be sold through DASP.” In addition, HUD’s fact sheet for the recent changes announces that DASP will, among other things: (i) limit interest rate increases to no more than one percent per year after a five-year period where the rate is fixed, thereby implementing payment shock protection and ensuring consistency with HAMP; (ii) prohibit purchasers from “walking away” from vacant properties; (iii) revise the 120-day delinquency notice to advise borrowers that their loan may be sold; (iv) set a goal to sell 10 percent of assets to non-profits and local governments; (v) release performance and outcome data on a pool level (instead of a sale level); (vi) release demographic data on sales; (vii) strengthen requirements for investors to obtain Neighborhood Stabilization Outcome (NSO) credit when selling to non-profits; and (viii) target loans for DASP sales based on non-profit and local government interest.
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.”
This week, FHA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Housing and Head of FHA, Edward Golding, issued a letter informing stakeholders that “HUD has determined that housing finance agency down payment assistance programs are legal and consistent with the National Housing Act.” We note that the letter was not a Mortgagee Letter nor was it published in the Federal Register and may be considered informal guidance.
In the letter, Golding advised that:
- Government entities may provide borrowers with funds for down payments on FHA loans; and
- Loans that include down payment assistance (DPA) provided by state and local housing finance agencies (HFA) continue to be eligible for FHA insurance.
Golding’s letter emphasized the benefits of DPA programs, commenting that such programs facilitate access to homeownership for low- and moderate-income families. Still, Golding noted that FHA will continue to monitor and mitigate any potential risk associated with DPA programs: “[w]e will work diligently to reduce the impact of these risks on our portfolio. We know it is possible to accomplish this as the research shows carefully designed programs perform better.”
Golding’s letter purports to resolve a matter of dispute regarding DPA between FHA and the HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG). Last year, HUD OIG audited an Arizona-based mortgage lender and issued a report concluding that the lender originated FHA loans that included gift DPA that did not comply with FHA rules and regulations. Specifically, the audit found that, among other things:
- The lender inappropriately allowed premium pricing to be used as a source for the borrowers’ down payments, which were not true gifts and were indirectly repaid by the borrowers through a higher premium rate;
- The lender used programs that had a circular funding mechanism (i.e., the program was structured to generate revenues through the sale of mortgage-backed securities); and
- The lender did not perform due diligence to ensure DPA was eligible.
On May 18, HUD announced that the FHA proposed a new rule that is intended to “strengthen” its Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) Program by reinforcing reforms that have taken place in the past two years, and by adding new consumer protections. New revisions to the HECM program outlined in the proposed rule include, but are not limited to, (i) ensuring that required HECM counseling occurs before a mortgage contract is signed; (ii) amending the definition of “property charges” to include utilities as a borrower responsibility; (iii) capping lifetime interest rate adjustments for adjustable interest rate products at 5%; (iv) requiring as a condition of eligibility for loan assignment that the HECM mortgage be in lien status prior to homeowners association and condo association liens; and (v) creating a “cash for keys” program to “incentivize parties with legal authority to dispose of a property that serves as the security for a HECM to complete a deed in lieu of foreclosure more quickly.” Comments on the proposal are due by Monday, July 18, 2016.
On March 15, HUD announced the completion of FHA’s loan-level certification, Form 92900-A. Significantly, the final certification clarifies FHA’s “longstanding position” that “minor mistakes that do not affect the decision to approve a loan are not the focus of [FHA’s] compliance efforts” and that “lenders will be held accountable for only those mistakes that would have altered the decision to approve the loan.” The certification also clarifies that lenders are required to certify only “to what they know to be true to the best of their knowledge” and that they are not responsible for “mistakes or fraud committed by a third party that the lender did not or could not have had reason to know of.” Finally, the certification removes references to the pre-endorsement review requirement. HUD issued Mortgagee Letter 2016-16 to advise mortgagees of the revised certification, which is effective August 1, 2016.
On March 15, HUD’s proposed revisions to the FHA annual lender certification were published in the Federal Register. According to HUD’s announcement, the primary revision to the annual lender certification form is the “addition of language requiring lenders to certify that they have not been involved in fraud or other serious criminal or civil violations that would call into question their ability to carry out the responsibilities of the program.” Previously, this language was included in the loan-level certification. In addition, the proposal also amends the lender-level certification statement regarding compliance with all FHA regulations and requirements by (i) adding guidebooks to cover certain FHA policy; (ii) revising the language to clarify the intent and scope of the statement; (iii) removing timeframes and revising the qualifier so that it matches the similar qualifier in other statements; and (iv) detailing reporting requirements in HUD Handbook 4000.1. Comments on the proposal are due April 14, 2016.