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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.
On March 29, FHFA announced enhanced payment deferral policies for borrowers facing financial hardships. Under the newly enhanced policies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow borrowers to defer up to six months of mortgage payments, enabling borrowers “to keep the same monthly mortgage payment by moving past-due amounts to the end of the loan as a non-interest bearing balance, due and payable at maturity, sale, refinance, or payoff.” Fannie and Freddie will work with servicers to implement the enhanced payment deferral policies, which carry a voluntary adoption date of July 1, and a mandatory adoption date of October 1.
Recognizing that the more than one million Covid-19 payment deferrals completed by Fannie and Freddie during the pandemic helped borrowers stay in their homes, FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson said the agency is making the payment deferral policies a key part of its standard loss mitigation toolkit that is available to all borrowers with eligible hardships.
On March 23, FHFA announced a two-phase plan for soliciting stakeholder input on the agency’s proposed process for implementing updated credit score requirements. In October, FHFA announced that the FICO credit score model would be replaced by the FICO 10T and the VantageScore 4.0 credit score models, which were both validated and approved for use by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (covered by InfoBytes here). The agency also announced that Fannie and Freddie will now require two credit reports – instead of three – from the national consumer reporting agencies for single-family loan acquisitions. FHFA seeks public input on the projected implementation process to inform the transition to these new credit score models, which the agency estimates will happen in two phases. Phase one, estimated to start Q3 2024, will include the delivery and disclosure of additional credit scores, while phase two will include the incorporation of the new credit score models in pricing, capital, and other processes (estimated to occur in Q4 2025).
On March 15, FHFA delayed the implementation of a new debt-to-income ratio-based fee to August 1, in order to ensure lenders have sufficient time to prepare. In January, 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 include the upfront fee eliminations announced last October to increase pricing support for purchase borrowers limited by income or by wealth, FHFA said. The agency made the decision to delay the effective date by three months based on feedback from mortgage industry stakeholders who raised concerns about the operational challenges of implementing the DTI ratio-based fee. FHFA also confirmed that “lenders will not be subject to post-purchase price adjustments related to this DTI ratio-based fee for loans acquired by [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] between August 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023.” The agency explained that this temporary exception “will not alter any other quality control review decisions by [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac].”
On February 23, FHFA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework (ERCF) that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (See also FHFA fact sheet here.) Changes include modifications to the capital requirements for commingled securities, the introduction of a 0.6 risk multiplier for calculating multifamily mortgage exposures backed by properties with certain government subsidies, the introduction of a standardized approach for calculating counterparty credit risk for derivatives and cleared transactions, and modifications for how representative credit scores for single-family loans are determined. Fannie and Freddie would also be required to “assign an original credit score of 680 to single-family mortgage exposure without a permissible credit score at origination” instead of 600. The NPRM also modifies “guarantee assets, mortgage servicing assets, time-based calls for [credit risk transfer] exposures, interest-only [mortgage-backed securities], the single-family countercyclical adjustment, the stability capital buffer, and the compliance date for the advanced approaches.” Comments on the NPRM are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On February 14, CFPB Fair Lending Director Patrice Ficklin joined senior leaders from the FDIC, HUD, NCUA, Federal Reserve Board, DOJ, OCC, and FHFA in submitting a joint letter to The Appraisal Foundation (TAF) urging the organization to further revise its draft Ethics Rule for appraisers to include a detailed statement of federal prohibitions against discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and ECOA.
This is the second time the agencies have raised concerns with TAF. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last February, the agencies sent a joint letter in response to a request for comments on proposed changes to the 2023 Appraisal Standards Board Ethics Rule and Advisory Opinion 16, in which they noted that while provisions prohibit an appraiser from relying on “unsupported conclusions relating to characteristics such as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, marital status, familial status, age, receipt of public assistance income, disability, or an unsupported conclusion that homogeneity of such characteristics is necessary to maximize value,” the “provisions do not prohibit an appraiser from relying on ‘supported conclusions’ based on such characteristics and, therefore, suggest that such reliance may be permissible.” The letter noted that the federal ban on discrimination under the FHA and ECOA is not limited only to “unsupported” conclusions, and that any discussions related to potential appraisal bias should be consistent with all applicable nondiscrimination laws.
In their second letter, the agencies said that the fourth draft removed a detailed, unambiguous summary covering nondiscrimination standards under the FHA and ECOA, and instead substituted “a distinction between unethical discrimination and unlawful discrimination.” The letter expressed concerns that the term “unethical discrimination” is not well established in current law or practice, and could lead to confusion in the appraisal industry. Moreover, the letter noted that “the term ‘ethical’ discrimination, and reference to the possibility of a protected characteristic being ‘essential to the assignment and necessary for credible assignment results,’ appears to resemble the concept of ‘supported’ discrimination that the agencies previously disfavored and whose removal and replacement with a summary of the relevant law significantly improved the draft Ethics Rule.” The agencies further cautioned that “[s]uggesting that appraisers avoid ‘bias, prejudice, or stereotype’ as general norms” would grant individual appraisers wide discretion in applying these norms and likely yield inconsistent results. The agencies advised TAF to provide a thorough explanation of these legal distinctions.