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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CFPB Issues Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation

On August 2, the CFPB released consumer protection principles for mortgage servicers to use as they develop new foreclosure relief solutions in anticipation of Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program’s (HAMP) upcoming expiration date (CFPB Principles). The CFPB Principles echo those summarized in FHFA’s, HUD’s, and Treasury’s recently published white paper, “Guiding Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation: How the Lessons Learned from the Financial Crisis Can Influence the Path Forward.” As previously covered in InfoBytes, the white paper recommends that future loss mitigation programs promote accessibility, affordability, sustainability, transparency, and accountability. The CFPB Principles address accessibility, affordability, sustainability, and transparency, and cite to separate CFPB mortgage servicing rules for standards concerning accountability. In its press release, the CFPB notes that the four principles “do not establish binding legal requirements but instead are intended to complement ongoing discussions among industry, consumer, groups, and policymakers.”

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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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Agencies Issue White Paper Regarding Loss Mitigation Programs

On July 25, FHFA, HUD, and Treasury published a white paper titled “Guiding Principles for the Future of Loss Mitigation: How the Lessons Learned from the Financial Crisis Can Influence the Path Forward.” The paper examines the effect of the 2008 financial crisis on the mortgage servicing industry with a focus on loss mitigation programs. Under the 2009 Making Home Affordable (MHA) program, foreclosure alternatives were established to address the needs of homeowners and to improve the mortgage servicing industry’s loss mitigation practices. According to the paper, between April 2009 and the end of May 2016, 10.5 million modification and mortgage assistance arrangements were completed through government programs and private sector efforts. The paper further notes that, as a result of  FHFA’s, HUD’s, and Treasury’s programs, regulatory actions, and private sector initiatives, the mortgage industry is “generally better prepared now to provide assistance to struggling homeowners than it was before the crisis.” The improvement “is due, in part, to the adoption of certain homeowner engagement standards including continuity of contact, solicitation timeframes, and certain notice and appeal processes required by the [CFPB].” At the end of 2016, MHA programs, such as HAMP, will come to a close. Based on the agencies’ collective experience with MHA programs, the paper identifies  five guiding principles for loss mitigation programs: (i) accessibility, guaranteeing homeowners a simple process for obtaining mortgage assistance; (ii) affordability, “providing homeowners with meaningful payment relief that addresses the needs of the homeowner, the servicer and the investor, to support long-term performance”; (iii) sustainability, offering long-term solutions intended to resolve delinquency; (iv) transparency, “[e]nsuring that the process to obtain assistance, and the terms of that assistance, are as clear and understandable as possible to homeowners, and that information about options and their utilization is available to the appropriate parties”; and (v) accountability, ensuring sufficient oversight of the process to obtain mortgage assistance.

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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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