A new federal regulation proposal could change the standards for private mortgage insurers resulting in a stricter lending process. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is proposing a risk-based evaluation for Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac insurer portfolios. The new analysis will ensure that each approved insurer has enough capital for claims under significant market stress.
Most of us remember when the housing market crashed almost 10 years ago. Housing costs dropped, new construction stopped, and private insurers’ financial strength ratings quickly vanished. Companies were placed in receivership by federal regulators while mortgage underwriting standards were tightened and FHA, VA, and other guarantee programs drained the majority of their market shares. Prevention similar events has become a major concern for the FHFA.
In turn, they have proposed that private mortgage insurers guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac be subject to a risk-based capital evaluation. An analysis would be required in situations where the homebuyer is making a down payment of less than 20%, debt-to-income ratios are greater than 43%, and mortgages that do not meet specific requirements. Given FHFA adaptation of these new standards, the capacity to underwrite new mortgages by private insurers may be limited but Director Melvin Watts insists there is “sufficient industry capacity to meet the needs of high-LTV borrowers.”
The FHFA’s plan, as a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulator, is to shift the risk of market share loss back to private companies while protecting taxpayers from another bailout. The majority of FHA and VA guaranteed programs have cushioned their reserves by hiking up premiums and are now transitioning back to private companies while stymieing their underwriting capabilities through new risk-based evaluations.
Such a bold move on behalf of the federal government has received mixed reactions. Some companies are supportive of the proposal citing that compliance with the new regulation would not be an issue while others balk claiming restricted access to credit and decreased underwriting capabilities.
Inman News reported that most insurers who issued statements in response to the proposal agree with David H. Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) who stated “the proposed eligibility requirements are comprehensive and we will be conducting a detailed review of the standards to ensure they properly balance the need for strong capital, while preserving the ability of the industry to cost-effectively serve first-time buyers and working families.”
Before you start freaking out, please remember that this is simply and proposal and the FHFA is accepting comments on the draft proposal through September 8th. Overall, do you think this is a step in the right direction or a step backwards, comment below.