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On August 10, FHFA published the Dodd-Frank Act Stress Tests Results – Severely Adverse Scenario containing the results of the ninth annual stress tests conducted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. Last year, FHFA published orders for the GSEs to conduct a stress test with specific scenarios to determine whether companies have the capital necessary to absorb losses as a result of severely adverse economic conditions (covered by InfoBytes here). According to the report, the total comprehensive income loss is between $8.4 billion and $9.9 billion depending on how deferred tax assets are treated. Notably, compared to last year, the severely adverse scenario includes a larger increase in the unemployment rate due to the lower unemployment rate at the beginning of the planning horizon. FHFA also expanded the scope of entities considered within the primary counterparty default component of the worldwide market shock. This expansion encompasses mortgage insurers, unsecured overnight deposits, providers of multifamily credit enhancements, nonbank servicers, and credit risk transfer reinsurance counterparties.
On July 27, the Biden administration released a fact sheet detailing new actions to develop the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which was rolled out early this year (covered by InfoBytes here). The three new actions aim to support renters by (i) “ensuring all renters have an opportunity to address incorrect tenant screening reports”; (ii) “providing new funding to support tenant organizing efforts”; and (iii) “ensuring that renters are given fair notice in advance of eviction.” Additionally, the CFPB, USDA, FHFA, and HUD concurrently released statements aimed at landlords, reminding them of “best practices” and their obligation to inform tenants of their rights.
FHFA published Director Sandra L. Thompson’s statement on “best practices” for the delivery of adverse action notices to renters by GSE-backed multifamily housing borrowers. Referencing research showing that tenant screening reports often contain imprecise or inaccurate information, Director Thompson “strongly encouraged” borrowers who deny a rental application to provide written adverse action notices to the applicants and a copy of any consumer screening report that was relied upon. FHFA’s guidance is based on the FCRA’s requirement that landlords and property managers inform rental applicants of negative information from a consumer screening report that resulted in their rental application being rejected or another unfavorable outcome.
The CFPB posted a blog entry that emphasized landlords’ obligation under the FCRA adverse action notice requirement, which mandates that landlords who take any action against a current or prospective tenant based on a consumer report notify the tenant of the decision and how they can contact the company that created the report. The Bureau advised that renters have the right to review their rental background check report and to dispute information they believe to be inaccurate and encouraged tenants to obtain a free copy of the report from the company that compiled it and dispute any errors (covered by InfoBytes here).
In conjunction with the White House press release, HUD announced it is taking multiple actions to improve rental screening transparency and support renters. It is sending reminders to public housing agencies and property owners about their obligation to inform rejected applicants about reasons for their denial, which provides renters with the opportunity to correct any errors. Additionally, HUD is providing $10 million for tenant education and outreach in Section 8 program properties to assist tenants with “capacity building efforts” for engagement with property management. Furthermore, HUD will issue a proposed rule requiring a 30-day written notification for evictions due to nonpayment of rent in certain subsidized housing.
Also mentioned was the recent White House announcement of actions it is taking to combat “unfair and hidden fees” concerning rental housing (covered by InfoBytes here).
On July 7, the FHFA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking and announced that it is seeking feedback on a proposed rule to amend the Suspended Counterparty Program (SCP) regulation. The SCP regulation currently requires FHFA-regulated entities to report to FHFA if they became aware of certain forms of misconduct committed within the past three years by individuals or institutions they do business with. The SCP regulation also grants FHFA the authority to issue orders directing the regulated entities to cease or refrain from doing business with certain counterparties.
According to FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson, the proposed rule aims to strengthen FHFA’s ability to protect its regulated entities from business risks associated with misconduct, enabling them to continue serving as reliable sources of liquidity. The proposed rule would specifically authorize the suspension of business between regulated entities and counterparties who are found to have committed misconduct in the context of civil enforcement actions in connection with the management or ownership of real property. Furthermore, the proposed rule would allow FHFA to immediately suspend business without prior notice when misconduct has resulted in debarment, suspension, or limited denial of participation imposed by a federal agency. Comments on the proposed rule are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.
On June 8, the CFPB joined the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and the OCC to request comments on proposed interagency guidance relating to reconsiderations of value (ROV) for residential real estate valuations. The proposed guidance advises financial institutions on policies that would afford consumers an opportunity to introduce evidence that was not previously considered in the original appraisal. The proposal references the occurrence of “deficiencies” in real estate valuations, which can be due to errors or omissions, valuation methods, assumptions, or other factors. According to the proposed guidance, these kind of valuation deficiencies can “prevent individuals, families, and neighborhoods from building wealth through homeownership by potentially preventing homeowners from accessing accumulated equity, preventing prospective buyers from purchasing homes, making it harder for homeowners to sell or refinance their homes, and increasing the risk of default.” Also noted is the risk non-credible valuations pose to financial institutions, which may lead to loan losses, violations of law, fines, civil money penalties, damages, and civil litigation.
The proposed guidance (i) provides direction on how ROVs overlap with appraisal independence requirements and compliance with relative laws and regulations; (ii) identifies how financial institutions can implement and improve existing ROV policies while remaining compliant with regulations, preserving appraiser independence, and being responsive to consumers; (iii) explains how deficiencies can pose risk to financial institutions and describes how ROV policies should be factored into risk management functions; and (iv) provides examples of ROV policies, procedures, control systems, and complaint processes to address deficient valuations.
Comments on the proposed guidance are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.
On June 1, the CFPB joined the Federal Reserve Board, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and FHFA in issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to implement quality control standards mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act concerning automated valuation models (AVMs) used by mortgage originators and secondary market issuers. Specifically, institutions that engage in certain credit decisions or make securitization determinations would be required to adopt quality control standards to ensure a high level of confidence that estimates produced by an AVM are fair and nondiscriminatory. Other requirements would necessitate institutions to protect against data manipulation and avoid conflicts of interest. Institutions would also be required to conduct random sample testing and reviews and comply with applicable nondiscrimination laws. The agencies acknowledged that while advances in AVM technology and data availability may contribute to lower costs and reduce loan cycle times, institutions’ reliance on AMV technology must not be used as an excuse to evade the law.
CFPB Director Rohit Chopra explained that, while AVMs rely on mathematical formulas and number crunching to produce estimates (and are often used to “check” human appraisers or used in place of an appraisal), they can still embed the human biases they are meant to correct. This is due in part to the data fed into the AVMs, the algorithms used within the machines, and biases and blind spots attributed to the individuals who develop the models, Chopra warned, commenting that AVMs can actually “make bias harder to eradicate in home valuations because the algorithms used cloak the biased inputs and design in a false mantle of objectivity.”
Chopra went on to explain that inaccurate or biased algorithms can lead to serious harms to consumers, neighborhoods, and the housing market, and may also impact the tax base. A focus common to all the agencies, Chopra said, is ensuring that automated systems and artificial intelligence modeling technologies are developed and used in accordance with federal laws to avert discriminatory outcomes and prevent negative impacts on consumer financial stability.
Comments on the NPRM are due within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register.
Recently, the FHFA issued a request for input (RFI) on a single-family pricing framework for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs), including feedback on policy priorities and goals that FHFA should pursue in its oversight of the framework. “Through this RFI, FHFA seeks input on how to ensure the pricing framework adequately protects the [GSEs] and taxpayers against potential future losses, supports affordable, sustainable housing and first-time homebuyers, and fosters liquidity in the secondary mortgage market,” FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson said in the announcement. The RFI also seeks input on the GSEs’ single-family upfront guarantee fees and whether it is appropriate to continue linking those fees to the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework. FHFA explained that guarantee fees are intended to cover the GSEs’ administrative costs, expected credit losses, and cost of capital associated with guaranteeing securities backed by single-family mortgage loans. Comments on the RFI are due August 14.
On May 10, FHFA announced it is rescinding a debt-to-income-based loan-level pricing adjustment announced in January. As previously covered by InfoBytes, FHFA made several changes relating to upfront fees for certain borrowers with debt-to-income (DTI) ratios above 40 percent. The updated and recalibrated pricing grids also included the upfront fee eliminations announced last October to increase pricing support for purchase borrowers limited by income or by wealth, FHFA said at the time. The implementation of the DTI pricing adjustment, which would have affected loans acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was delayed to August 1, but after the mortgage industry and other market participants expressed concerns about implementation challenges, FHFA made the decision to rescind the DTI-ratio based fee to provide additional transparency. The agency will issue a request for public input on the single-family guarantee fee pricing framework shortly.
On April 19, FHFA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to codify several existing practices and programs relating to the agency’s fair lending oversight requirements for the Federal Home Loan Banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). Intended to provide increased public transparency and greater oversight and accountability to the regulated entities’ fair housing and fair lending compliance, the NPRM seeks to also formalize requirements for the GSEs to maintain Equitable Housing Finance Plans, which are designed to address racial and ethnic disparities in homeownership and wealth and foster housing finance markets that provide equitable access to affordable and sustainable housing (covered by InfoBytes here). The NPRM will also codify requirements for the GSEs to collect and report homeownership education, housing counseling, and language preference information from the Supplemental Consumer Information Form (SCIF). Lenders are required to use the SCIF as part of the application process for loans with application dates on or after March 1, that will be sold to the GSEs (covered by InfoBytes here). Comments on the NPRM are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On April 12, FHFA published a final rule amending its Enterprise Duty to Serve Underserved Markets regulation. The final rule, which was adopted without change from the proposed rule issued last year (covered by InfoBytes here), allows Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSE) activities in all colonia census tracts to be eligible for Duty to Serve credit. Specifically, the amendment adds a “colonia census tract” definition to serve as a census tract-based proxy for a “colonia” (as generally applied to “unincorporated communities along the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas that are characterized by high poverty rates and substandard living conditions”). The final rule also amends the “high-needs rural region” definition by substituting “colonia census tract” for “colonia,” and revises the definition of “rural area” to include all colonia census tracts regardless of their location, in order to make GSE activities in all colonia census tracts eligible for duty to serve credit. The final rule takes effect July 1.
On April 5, FHFA announced updates to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s (GSEs) equitable housing finance plans for 2023. (See plans here and here.) The updates include adjustments to plans first announced last year (covered by InfoBytes here), which faced pushback from several Republican senators who argued that the plans raised “significant legal concerns” and that “no law authorizes FHFA to use a GSE’s assets to pursue affirmative action in housing.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) The senators also argued that the Biden administration was “conscripting the GSEs as instrumentalities of its progressive racial equity agenda to achieve outcomes it cannot achieve legislatively or even legally.”
According to FHA’s announcement, the updated plans provide the GSEs with a three-year roadmap to address barriers to sustainable housing opportunities. Updates include (i) taking actions to remove barriers faced by Latino renters and homeowners in Fannie Mae’s plan; (ii) an improved focus on ensuring existing borrowers are able to receive fair loss mitigation support and outcomes through monitoring and developing strategies to close gaps; (iii) providing financial capabilities coaching to build credit and savings; (iv) supporting locally-owned modular construction facilities in communities of color; and (v) increasing the reach of GSE special purpose credit programs to support homeownership attainment and housing sustainability in underserved communities.