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On August 25, FHFA updated its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac assistance options for families impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, FHFA revised its “Tenant Protections for Enterprise-Backed Rental Properties in Response to COVID-19,” which is intended “to assist households that are unable to pay rent or utilities.” Among other things, the FAQs indicate that renters “living in a property financed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac have access to housing counselors with expertise in rental assistance programs and other programs to overcome financial hardships.” FHFA’s “Tenant Protections for Enterprise-Backed Rental Properties in Response to COVID-19,” clarifies and updates information for tenants in rental properties secured by a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage.
On August 16, FHFA announced a proposed rule regarding benchmark levels for the 2023 and 2024 multifamily housing goals for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). According to the proposed rule, the GSEs will switch from using the number of units in multifamily properties financed annually by each institution to a new methodology of using the percentage of units financed. Instead of measuring the multifamily housing goals based on a number of units, the proposed rule would use the percentage of each of the GSE’s annual multifamily loan acquisitions that are affordable to each income category. FHFA acknowledged that the existing methodology does not incentivize the GSEs to continue to acquire mortgages backed by goal-qualifying units after the institutions have purchased enough mortgages to meet the minimum numeric benchmark levels. According to FHFA Director Sandra Thompson, the proposal “would ensure that each [of the GSE’s] focus remains on affordable segments of the multifamily market and reaffirms FHFA’s commitments to its statutory duty to promote affordability nationwide.”
On August 10, the FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will start requiring servicers to obtain and maintain borrowers’ fair lending data on their loans. Data must transfer with servicing throughout the mortgage term, the announcement states, adding that beginning March 1, 2023, servicers will be required to collect borrower data including age, race, ethnicity, gender, and preferred language. The update follows an announcement issued in May (covered by InfoBytes here), which requires lenders to collect information on the borrower’s language preference, and on any homebuyer education or housing counseling that the borrower received, so that lenders can increase their understanding of borrowers’ needs throughout the home buying process. To facilitate the upcoming changes, Freddie Mac issued servicing Bulletin 2022-17, which outlines servicing requirements and notes that data elements must be stored in a format that can be searched, queried, and transferred. Simultaneously, Fannie Mae issued SVC-2022-06 to incorporate the new fair lending data requirements into its Servicing Guide. “Having fair lending data travel with servicing will help servicers do the important work of providing assistance to borrowers in need, helping to further a sustainable and equitable housing finance system,” FHFA Director Sandra Thompson said, adding that this need arose from the foreclosure crisis and Covid-19 response.
On July 19, twelve Republican Senators wrote a letter to FHFA Director Sandra Thompson expressing their “many significant concerns” about “race-based housing subsidies” in the recently released Equitable Housing Finance Plans for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in June, the GSEs released their Equitable Housing Finance Plans for 2022-2024 (available here and here), affirming their commitment to addressing racial and ethnic disparities in homeownership and wealth. The plans were developed following FHFA’s September 2021 request for public input, which invited comments to help the GSEs prepare their first plans and to aid FHFA in overseeing the plans (covered by InfoBytes here). In the letter, the Senators argued that the plans “raise significant legal concerns,” adding that “no law authorizes FHFA to use a GSE’s assets to pursue affirmative action in housing.” The Senators also wrote that the Biden administration “is conscripting the GSEs as instrumentalities of its progressive racial equity agenda to achieve outcomes it cannot achieve legislatively or even legally.” The Senators urged Thompson to “abandon” the plans and, “in anticipation of litigation challenging the legality” of them, requested that the GSEs “retain all correspondence with FHFA and other records relating to these plans.”
On June 29, Freddie Mac announced that it will begin considering on-time rent payments as part of its loan purchase decisions to increase homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers. Starting July 10, with a borrower’s permission, mortgage lenders and brokers will be able to submit bank account data showing 12-months of on-time rent payments through Freddie’s automated underwriting system. According to Freddie, bank account data will be “obtained from designated third-party service providers using the same automated process used to verify assets, income and employment” using its asset and income modeler. Freddie explained that eligible rent payment data includes checks, electronic transactions, or digital payments made through specific payment apps. “These automated capabilities provide greater efficiencies to lenders and allows them to deliver a better borrower experience while continuing to meet Freddie Mac’s strong credit underwriting standards,” the announcement said. Additional requirements for submitting rent payment data to Freddie’s underwriting system will be announced in an upcoming July Single-Family Seller/Servicer Guide Bulletin.
On June 24, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued additional guidance related to a coding issue that impacted approximately 12 percent of credit scores earlier this year. As previously covered by InfoBytes, a consumer reporting agency informed lenders and industry members that it experienced a coding issue when it changed some of the technology to its legacy online model platform.
After making a determination that the underlying credit report data errors resulting from the coding issue “are not considered to be material erroneous credit data errors under Selling Guide B3-2-09,” Fannie Mae issued LL-2022-02 to provide requirements applicable specifically to impacted loans. Specifically, lenders are not required to obtain an updated credit report and re-underwrite the impacted loan “by resubmitting the loan to Desktop Underwriter® (DU® )” nor are they required to “re-assess the underwriting decision for non-DU loans, based solely on this issue.” An inaccurate credit score used at the time of underwriting will not render the loan ineligible for purchase, Fannie Mae stated, adding that a “repurchase request will not be issued based solely on this issue.” Guidance related to obtaining corrected credit scores and making data corrections, as well as information concerning loan-level price adjustments, post-closing quality control review, and representation and warranty relief is also provided in the lender letter.
Freddie Mac issued Bulletin 2022-14 to provide similar guidance to sellers about their credit reporting and data correction responsibilities, and stated that it will also “not issue a repurchase based solely on an inaccurate credit score used in the underwriting of a mortgage.”
The guidance is effective immediately.
On June 8, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) released their Equitable Housing Finance Plans for 2022-2024 (available here and here), affirming their commitment to addressing racial and ethnic disparities in homeownership and wealth. The plans were developed following FHFA’s September 2021 request for public input, which invited comments to help the GSEs prepare their first plans and to aid FHFA in overseeing the plans (covered by InfoBytes here). Among other things, the plans (which will be updated annually) include activities to (i) address future consumer education initiatives for renters and homeowners; (ii) help tenants build credit profiles and enable better access to financial services; (iii) expand counseling services to support housing stability; (iv) launch technology to increase access to sustainable credit and fair home appraisals; and (v) deploy Special Purpose Credit Programs to address barriers to sustainable homeownership, focusing particularly on consumers living in formerly redlined and underserved areas with majority Black populations. FHFA’s press release also announced the establishment of a new pilot transparency framework for the GSEs, which will require Fannie and Freddie to publish and maintain a list of pilot programs and “test-and-learn activities” on their public websites to help FHFA determine whether such activities address disparities identified in the plans.
Earlier in the week, FHFA released its inaugural Mission Report describing housing finance activities taken in 2021 by the GSEs and Federal Home Loan Banks related to targeted economic development and affordable, equitable, and sustainable housing. The report highlighted, among other things, that the gap between mortgage acceptance rates for minority and white borrowers “remains persistent,” with Black and Latino borrowers representing 6.3 percent and 14.2 percent of all mortgages purchased by the GSEs, respectively, in the fourth quarter of 2021. The report also discussed fair lending geographical trends as well as data on multifamily and single-family loan acquisitions.
On June 1, the FHFA announced a final rule requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) to submit annual capital plans and provide prior notice for certain capital actions “consistent with the regulatory framework for capital planning for large bank holding companies.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in December 2021, FHFA issued the noticed of proposed rulemaking. These capital plans must include several mandatory elements, including (i) “[a]n assessment of the expected sources and uses of capital over the planning horizon that reflects the [GSE]’s size, complexity, risk profile and scope of operations, assuming both expected and stressful conditions”; (ii) “[e]stimates of projected revenues, expenses, losses, reserves and pro forma capital levels,” along with any additional capital measures the GSEs deem relevant; (iii) “[a] description of all planned capital actions over the planning horizon”; (iv) a discussion of stress test results and how the capital plans will account for these results; and (v) a discussion of any anticipated changes to a GSE’s business plan that may likely have a material impact on the GSE’s capital adequacy or liquidity. The final rule noted that the FHFA intends to review the capital plans for comprehensiveness, reasonableness, and relevant supervisory information, and plans to review the GSE’s regulatory and financial reports, as well as the results of any conducted stress tests and any other information required by FHFA or related to the GSE’s capital adequacy. Should the GSEs determine that there has been or will be a material change to their risk profile, financial condition, or corporate structure since the submission of the last plan (or if directed by FHFA), they must resubmit their capital plans within 30 days. The final rule also incorporates the determination of the stress capital buffer into the capital planning process, which will be provided to the GSEs by August 15 of each year, along with an explanation of the results of the supervisory stress test. The final rule is effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Under the final rule, each GSE will submit its first capital plan by May 20, 2023.
On May 26, Freddie Mac announced new automated underwriting capabilities that will allow mortgage lenders to verify assets, income, and employment using borrower-approved bank account data. The new functionality is available starting June 1, through Freddie’s asset and income modeler (AIM) within the Freddie Mac Loan Product Advisor. According to Freddie’s announcement, the automated underwriting capability “provides the borrower’s current employment status using borrower-approved bank account (direct deposit) or payroll data obtained from designated third-party service providers” in order to give “lenders a more efficient option than obtaining oral or written verification of employment prior to closing.” Freddie cited a recent study, which found that adopting offerings like AIM helps lenders “significantly boost efficiency and shorten cycle times by as much as 15 days.” These efficiencies, Freddie said, “translate into a 30 percent reduction in loan origination costs, greater customer satisfaction, and an increase in applications being completed and closed.” The announcement also noted that Freddie recently released the industry’s first automated-assessment of direct deposit income, which enables AIM to access additional fixed income or alternative income sources such as retirement, Social Security, Veteran Affairs benefits, alimony, and child support, as well as income from an applicant’s tax return for self-employed individuals.
On May 26, FHFA announced a final rule that amends the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework by introducing new public disclosure requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). The final rule adds new quarterly quantitative and annual qualitative disclosures related to risk management, corporate governance, capital structure and capital requirements and buffers under the standardized approach. The final rule also aligns the GSEs’ disclosure requirements with many of the public disclosure requirements for large banking organizations under the regulatory capital framework adopted by banking regulators, and is intended to ensure the GSEs operate in a safe and sound manner “in particular during periods of financial stress.” “By allowing market participants to assess key information about the [GSEs] risk profiles and associated levels of capital, this final rule will promote transparency and encourage sound risk management practices at the [GSEs],” acting Director Sandra L. Thompson said.
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