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 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.
On July 13, the CFPB announced that the FFIEC and HUD had published new resources for financial institutions required to file data pursuant to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) and Regulation C, as amended by the CFPB’s October 2015 final rule, which revised and expanded the scope of HMDA reporting requirements. Accordingly, the CFPB updated its “Resources for HMDA filers” page to include the following new FFIEC and HUD resources: (i) a Technology Preview, which provides an initial summary for how HMDA filers will interact with the HMDA Platform, a web-based data submission and edit-check system that filers will use to submit HMDA data collected in or after 2017; (ii) Filing Instructions Guide (FIG) for HMDA data collected in 2017, which outlines changes to the submission process for data collected in 2017, 2017 file specifications, and 2017 edit specifications; and (iii) FIG for HMDA data collected in 2018. The 2018 FIG includes field definitions for the many additional or modified data points required for data collected in 2018 and 2018 file format and edit specifications. The technical specifications in the FIG will allow lenders and vendors of HMDA data-preparation software to begin making the systems changes needed to collect data in 2018 for submission in 2019. The CFPB’s HMDA resource page also includes FFIEC HMDA FAQs and reminds financial institutions to visit the FFIEC website for resources to submit data collected in or before 2016.
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 June 8, HUD announced a conciliation agreement with a North Carolina-chartered commercial lender to resolve allegations that, as the successor of a merger with a South Carolina-based bank, it denied mortgage loans to African American, Latino, and Asian American applicants at a disproportionately higher rate than white applicants in violation of Section 804(b) and 805 of the Federal Fair Housing Act. After conducting an analysis of mortgage loans originated by the South Carolina bank between 2010 and 2011, the Department found that the bank demonstrated preferential treatment of white mortgage loan applicants through the retail channel via manual override of its automated underwriting system. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the commercial lender, having cooperated with HUD’s investigation, must among other things, (i) provide nonprofit organizations with $140,000 to use toward credit and housing counseling, financial literacy training, and related programs for first-time homebuyers in South Carolina; (ii) spend an aggregate amount of $20,000 on positive marketing, advertising, and outreach to residents in majority-minority census tracts in South Carolina; (iii) partner with a non-profit organization or community groups involved in financial education to conduct, at a minimum, 24 financial education programs in South Carolina for individuals and small business owners; (iv) hire three mortgage banker market specialists to “focus on diverse lending in Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, Columbia, and Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin metro areas”; (v) require fair housing training for all employees and agents substantially involved in manual underwriting of mortgages; and (vi) implement “a new standardized and objective set of guidelines for a second review of retail channel residential loan applications initially denied by the automated underwriting system.”