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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.
On January 25, the Biden administration announced new actions for enhancing tenant protections and furthering fair housing principles, which align with the administration’s Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights that was released the same day. The Blueprint and fact sheet lay out several new actions that federal agencies and state and local partners will take to protect tenants and increase housing affordability and access.
- The FTC and CFPB will collect information to identify practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing, “including the creation and use of tenant background checks, the use of algorithms in tenant screenings, the provision of adverse action notices by landlords and property management companies, and how an applicant’s source of income factors into housing decisions.” According to the White House, this marks the first time the FTC has issued a request for information that explores unfair practices in the rental market. The data will inform enforcement and policy actions under each agency’s jurisdiction.
- The CFPB will issue guidance and coordinate enforcement actions with the FTC to ensure information in the credit reporting system is accurate and to hold background check companies accountable for having unreasonable procedures.
- The FHFA will launch a transparent public process for examining “proposed actions promoting renter protections and limits on egregious rent increases for future investments.” Periodic updates, including one within the next six months will be provided to interested stakeholders. FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson commented that the agency “will conduct a public stakeholder engagement process to identify tangible solutions for addressing the affordability challenges renters are facing nationwide, particularly among underserved communities. The proposals discussed during this process will focus on properties financed by [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac].” She noted that FHFA will continue to evaluate Fannie and Freddie’s role in providing tenant protections and advancing affordable housing opportunities.
- The DOJ intends to hold a workshop to inform potential guidance updates centered on anti-competitive information sharing, including within the rental market space.
- HUD will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to require public housing authorities and owners of project-based rental assistance properties to provide tenants at least 30 days’ advanced notice before terminating a lease due to nonpayment.
- The Biden administration will also hold quarterly meetings with a diverse group of tenants and tenant advocates to share ideas on ways to strengthen tenant protections.
According to the announcement, the agencies’ actions exemplify the principles laid out in the Blueprint, which underscores key tenant protections, including: (i) renters should be able to access safe, quality, accessible, and affordable housing; (ii) renters should be provided clear and fair leases with defined rental terms, rights, and responsibilities; (iii) federal, state, and local governments should ensure renters are aware of their rights and are protected from unlawful discrimination and exclusion; (iv) renters should be given the freedom to organize without obstruction or harassment from housing providers or property managers; and (v) renters should be able to access resources to prevent evictions, ensure eviction proceedings are fair, and avoid future housing instability.
The administration also announced it is launching a related “Resident-Centered Housing Challenge”—a call to action for housing providers and other stakeholders to strengthen their practices and make independent commitments that will improve the quality of life for renters. The Challenge will launch this spring and encourages states, local, tribal, and territorial governments to improve existing fair housing policies and develop new ones.
On December 21, FHFA issued guidance to Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks), and the Office of Finance on its model risk management framework. According to the bulletin, the purpose of the guidance—formatted as Frequently Asked Questions—“is to provide supplemental guidelines that will address some of the gaps in [FHFA’s 2013 Model Risk Management guidance] prompted by changes in model-related technologies and questions generated from the expanded use of complex models by the FHLBanks.” “The supplemental guidance also addresses model documentation, the communication of model limitations, model performance tracking, on-top adjustments, challenger models, model consistency, and internal stress testing.”
On December 20, FHFA announced a final rule requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide advance notice of new activities and to obtain prior approval before launching new products. (See also fact sheet here.) Among other things, the final rule establishes that FHFA will determine which new activities merit public notice and comment and would be treated as new products subject to prior approval. Specifically, the final rule establishes that once a Notice of New Activity is deemed received, FHFA has 15 calendar days to determine if the new activity is a new product that merits public notice and comment. Additionally, the final rule establishes a public disclosure requirement for FHFA to publish its determinations on new activity and new product submissions. Among other things, if the agency “determines that a new activity is a new product, the final rule requires FHFA to publish a public notice soliciting comments on the new product for a 30-day period.” The final rule is effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On December 13, the CFPB and FHFA published updated loan-level data from the National Survey of Mortgage Originations. (See also FHFA announcement here.) The publicly available data highlights borrowers’ experiences when obtaining a mortgage during the Covid-19 pandemic. Key highlights from the updated data include: (i) in 2020 a higher percentage (48 percent) of borrowers reported that a paperless online mortgage process was important; (ii) 21 percent of borrowers reported that their mortgage closing did not occur as originally scheduled (up from 17 percent in 2019); (iii) an increased number of borrowers reported that they were very familiar with available interest rates, with 78 percent of borrowers (up from 67 percent in 2019) stating that they were very satisfied with the interest rate that they qualified for; and (iv) borrowers who refinanced in 2020 versus 2019 were better off financially, with 76 percent of borrowers who refinanced reporting that they were not concerned about qualifying for a mortgage in 2020.
“The data released today provide a clear view of borrower sentiment about the mortgage process during the COVID pandemic in 2020,” said Saty Patrabansh, FHFA Associate Director for the Office of Data and Statistics. “This data should be helpful to analysts and policymakers in understanding the complete experience of mortgage borrowers and identifying what challenges may still exist in mortgage lending.”
On November 29, FHFA announced that it will raise the maximum conforming loan limits (CLL) for mortgages purchased in 2023 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from $647,200 to $726,200 (the 2022 CLL limits were covered by InfoBytes here). In most high-cost areas, the maximum loan limit for one-unit properties will be 1,089,300. According to FHFA, due to generally rising home values, “the CLLs will be higher in all but two U.S. counties or county equivalents.” A county-specific list of 2023 conforming loan limits for all counties and county-equivalent areas in the U.S. can be accessed here.
On November 2, FHFA published a notice in the Federal Register announcing plans to hold a series of competitions called “Tech Sprints” to solicit innovative solutions on ways to advance housing finance fintech in a safe, sound, responsible, and equitable manner. Recognizing the significant effects that regulated entities’ potential use of fintech products and innovations could have on the mortgage market and market participants, FHFA said it wants to gather information about new and emerging technologies that may have applications in the mortgage space. Two tech sprints are planned each year over the next three years, with participation expected from housing finance industry members as well as other industries, such as tech companies, mortgage companies, academia, industry groups, and other members of the public. FHFA is accepting comments through January 3, 2023, on the necessity of the information collection, the burden of such collection, and ways to minimize the burden on members and project sponsors when providing information on ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected from the Tech Sprints.
On October 24, FHFA published a new Uniform Appraisal Dataset (UAD) Aggregate Statistics Data File, along with dashboards that provide visualizations of the newly available data related to home valuations. According to the press release, the UAD data file and dashboards provide stakeholders and the public access to a broad set of data points and trends found in appraisal reports that may be grouped by neighborhood characteristics and geographic levels. The data was compiled from 47.3 million UAD appraisal records collected from 2013 through the second quarter of 2022 on single-family properties. “As home valuations are a vital component of the mortgage process, publishing transparent, aggregate data on appraisals provides useful information to the public while protecting borrowers’ personally identifiable information,” FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson said. “Today’s announcement exemplifies our commitment to the development of a more efficient and equitable valuation system that ultimately reduces appraisal bias.”
On October 24, FHFA announced the elimination of upfront fees for certain first-time homebuyers, low-income borrowers, and underserved communities as part of the agency’s ongoing review of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s (GSEs) pricing framework. Specifically, upfront fees are eliminated for (i) first-time homebuyers who are at or below 100 percent of area median income (AMI) in most of the U.S. and below 120 percent of AMI in high-cost areas; (ii) HomeReady and Home Possible loans under the GSEs’ affordable mortgage programs; (iii) HFA Advantage and HFA Preferred loans; and (iv) single-family loans supporting the Duty to Serve program. These changes “will result in savings for approximately 1 in 5 borrowers of the [GSEs’] recent mortgage acquisitions,” FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson said in the announcement, noting that the agency is working with the GSEs and will announce an implementation date shortly. The pricing updates also include targeted increases to upfront fees for most cash-out refinance loans. Implementation of these fees will start February 1, 2023, in order to minimize market and pipeline disruption.