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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • FHFA updates GSE equitable housing finance plans

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    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.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSEs Fair Lending Consumer Finance Underserved Disparate Impact

  • FHFA expands deferral policies for hardships

    Federal Issues

    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.

    Federal Issues FHFA Consumer Finance Mortgages Covid-19 Loss Mitigation Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Mortgage Servicing

  • FHFA seeks feedback on updated credit score requirements

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    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).

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FHFA Credit Scores Consumer Finance Freddie Mac Fannie Mae

  • FHFA delays effective date of DTI ratio-based fee

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    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].”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FHFA Consumer Finance Mortgages Fannie Mae Freddie Mac

  • FHFA proposes changes to GSE regulatory capital framework

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    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.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FHFA Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSEs Mortgages

  • Agencies reiterate illegality of appraisal discrimination

    Federal Issues

    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.

    Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Appraisal FDIC HUD NCUA Federal Reserve DOJ OCC FHFA Fair Housing Act ECOA Discrimination

  • Biden administration releases Renters Bill of Rights

    Federal Issues

    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.

    Federal Issues Biden Tenant Rights Consumer Finance FHFA CFPB FTC Fair Housing DOJ HUD Fannie Mae Freddie Mac

  • FHFA issues model risk management guidance

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    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.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FHFA FHLB Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSEs Risk Management

  • GSEs must seek FHFA preapproval for new products

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    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.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FHFA GSEs Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Federal Register

  • CFPB and FHFA release updated loan-level mortgage data on borrowers’ pandemic experiences

    Federal Issues

    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.”

    Federal Issues CFPB FHFA Mortgages Mortgage Origination Covid-19 Consumer Finance


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