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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.