On November 10, DOJ and HUD issued a Joint Statement updating guidance on the application of the FHA to state and local land use and zoning laws. The guidance—which is provided in the form of frequently asked questions and answers thereto—is designed to help state and local governments better understand how to comply with the FHA when making zoning and land use decisions as well as to help members of the public understand their rights under the FHA. The first section of the Joint Statement, questions 1–6, describes generally the FHA’s requirements as they pertain to land use and zoning. The second and third sections, questions 7–25, discuss more specifically how the FHA applies to land use and zoning laws affecting housing for persons with disabilities, including guidance on regulating group homes and the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations. The fourth section, questions 26–27, addresses HUD’s and DOJ’s enforcement of the FHA in the land use and zoning context.
On November 22, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s caps for multifamily lending will remain at $36.5 billion for 2017. The determination was based on the agency’s projection that the overall size of the multifamily finance market will remain roughly the same as it was in 2016. Multifamily loans in designated affordable and underserved segments will remain excluded from the caps.
On November 15, HUD released its 2016 Annual Report to Congress Regarding the Financial Status of the Mutual Mortgage Insurance (MMI) Fund (the MMI Report). The MMI Report reflected the Fund’s improved financial condition for the fourth year in a row amid rising home prices, fewer defaults and a surge of new borrowers. The capital cushion of the Fund grew to 2.32 percent in fiscal 2016, up from 2.07 percent. It was only the second year since 2008 that the capital ratio, a proxy for the fund’s health, exceeded the 2 percent minimum required by law. The net worth of the Fund, which stands behind $1 trillion in U.S. home loans and serves as a sort of savings account to pay lender claims if borrowers default, grew by $3.8 billion to $27.6 billion.
On October 14, the HUD Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) published a report on HUD’s monitoring and payment of conveyance claims upon termination of FHA-insured mortgages. According to the report, mortgage servicers’ failure to foreclose on properties or meet conveyance deadlines may have cost the FHA an estimated $2.23 billion in unreasonable and unnecessary holding costs. HUD-OIG concluded that deficiencies in 24 CFR Part 203 did not “enable HUD to provide effective oversight and HUD monitored only a small percentage of servicers after the claim had been paid.” As a result of its findings, HUD-OIG recommended that HUD (i) amend 24 CFR Part 203 to include “a maximum period for filing insurance claims and disallowance of expenses incurred beyond established timelines”; (ii) develop an IT plan that that ensures significant operational changes to how HUD monitors single-family conveyance claims; and (iii) establish and implement controls to identify noncompliance with 24 CFR 203.402.
On September 29, the DOJ announced a settlement with a large regional bank, whereby the bank agreed to pay $83 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by originating and underwriting mortgage loans insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that did not meet applicable FHA requirements. In addition to underwriting defects, the DOJ alleged deficiencies in the bank’s quality control function, especially during periods of increased loan volume, as well as failures to adequately self-report loans with material defects. The settlement is not an admission of liability by the bank. BuckleySandler represented the bank in this matter.