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On June 13, the CFPB published a guide to assist a range of stakeholders accessing publicly available HMDA data on lending patterns that may result in racial and economic inequality due to redlining practices or other “unjustified disparities.” Through the Beginner’s Guide to Accessing and Using Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Data, stakeholders can better understand the sources and meanings of various HMDA data types as well as the financial institutions that are required to maintain, report, and publicly disclose loan-level information about mortgage applications and loans. According to the Bureau, HMDA data can provide insights on whether lenders are serving the housing needs of their communities and help guide policy decisions.
On June 10, the DOJ announced that the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida entered a consent order against several defendants accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by targeting Hispanic homeowners for predatory mortgage loan modification services. After several Hispanic homeowners filed discrimination complaints with HUD, the agency conducted an investigation, issued charges of discrimination, and referred the matter to the DOJ for litigation. According to the DOJ’s complaint, the defendants targeted Hispanic homeowners with deceptive Spanish-language advertising “that falsely promised to cut their mortgage payments in half” and guaranteed “lower payments in a specific timeframe in exchange for thousands of dollars of upfront fees and continuing monthly fees of as much as $550, which defendants claimed were ‘non-refundable.’” The DOJ further contended that many of the targeted Hispanic homeowners (who had limited English proficiency) were told not to communicate with their lenders and were instructed to stop making monthly mortgage payments; however, the defendants allegedly “did little or nothing to obtain the promised loan modifications,” leading to defaults and foreclosures.
The consent order, reached in partnership with the Civil Rights Division’s Housing Section, enters a nearly $4.6 million judgment (which is mostly suspended) against the defendants to compensate harmed homeowners. Of this amount, $95,000 in total will go to three individuals who intervened as plaintiffs in the DOJ’s lawsuit. Defendants must also pay a $5,000 civil penalty. In addition to monetary relief, the consent order permanently enjoins defendants “from providing any mortgage relief assistance services, including, but not limited to, mortgage loan modification, foreclosure rescue, or foreclosure defense services.” The consent order also imposes training and reporting/recordkeeping requirements for defendants’ other real-estate activities.
On June 9, the CFPB released Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) informational flyers in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, and Arabic. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the HAF program was created to provide direct assistance to consumers for mortgage payments, property insurance, utilities, and other housing-related costs to help prevent delinquencies, defaults, and foreclosures after January 21, 2020 related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mortgage servicers may voluntarily provide these flyers to their borrowers and are advised that the flyer is not required by regulation. Additional HAF program information is available in multiple languages on the Bureau’s website.
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 2, HUD announced a conciliation agreement with a mortgage lender to resolve allegations that it engaged in discriminatory lending practices based on race and national origin, in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The agreement arises from a complaint filed with HUD by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), which alleged that testing in the Seattle-Tacoma area revealed that Black and Hispanic testers were treated differently than White testers who sought housing loans. While the respondent denied that it provided less favorable treatment to testers based on race or national origin, it has agreed to pay $65,000 to NCRC and will “contribute an additional $10,000 to a Seattle-area non-profit organization specializing in providing financial literacy and housing education and counseling for persons in majority-minority census tracts in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area.” The respondent will also conduct an event in the Seattle metro area to improve homeownership rates of Black homebuyers and will provide additional fair lending training to employees. The conciliation agreement does not constitute an admission by respondent or evidence of a finding by HUD of a violation of the FHA.
Recently, a consumer reporting agency (CRA) informed lenders and industry members that it experienced a coding issue when it changed some of the technology to its legacy online model platform. As a result of the issue, the CRA advised that the miscalculation impacted approximately 12 percent of credit scores, although credit reports were not affected.
In response, on June 1, Fannie Mae issued a notice regarding the coding error. Fannie Mae reminded lenders “of their obligations under the Selling Guide to correct erroneous credit data, ensure the accuracy of the credit data submitted to Desktop Underwriter® (DU® ) at the time of loan sale, and to provide any corrected information to us.” Freddie Mac issued a similar notice advising lenders of their credit reporting and data correction responsibilities. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are monitoring the situation and may issue additional guidance regarding the coding issue.
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, HUD announced disaster assistance for certain areas in Kansas impacted by severe winter storms and straight-line winds from March 17 to March 22. The disaster assistance follows President Biden’s major disaster declarations on May 25. According to the announcement, HUD is providing immediate foreclosure relief, making various FHA mortgage insurance available to disaster victims, and providing information on housing providers as well as HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, among other measures. Specifically, HUD is providing an automatic 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured home mortgages for covered properties effective May 25. It is also making various FHA insurance options available to victims whose homes require repairs or were destroyed or severely damaged. HUD’s Section 203(h) program allows borrowers from participating FHA-approved lenders to obtain 100 percent financing, including closing costs, for homes in which “reconstruction or replacement is necessary.” HUD’s Section 203(k) loan program enables individuals to finance the repair of their existing homes or to include repair costs in the finance of a home purchase or a refinance of a home. HUD is also allowing administrative flexibilities to community planning and development grantees, as well as to public housing agencies and Tribes.
On May 19, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued Circular 26-22-09 to announce new procedures for loan approval and new procedures for processing joint loans. The Circular explains that, historically, the Department conducted a pre-closing review of loan application packages when the borrower had been rated unable to manage financial affairs and has a VA-appointed fiduciary. The Department also conducted a pre-closing review of cases where a loan would include more than one veteran using entitlement. In both cases, “the lender has sent such loan application packages to VA in advance of loan closing, and loan closing has not been able to proceed until after VA has issued approval.” The Circular noted that in an effort to streamline procedures to improve the veteran experience, the Department “has determined that such case-by-case reviews add a step that VA no longer believes necessary for ensuring program integrity.” The Circular also noted that that post-audit oversight would be as effective as a pre-closing review in maintaining program integrity, without the delays and additional administrative burdens that can be associated with the historical process. The Circular is effective immediately.
On May 17, NYDFS announced an industry letter to establish its expectations for all institutions engaged in reverse mortgage lending in the State on cooperative apartment units (coop-reverse mortgages) once newly enacted Section 6-O*2 of the New York Banking Law takes effect May 30. The letter noted there is a comprehensive regulatory framework that addresses the marketing, origination, and servicing of reverse mortgages in New York and stated that most of the existing requirements apply equally to coop-reverse mortgages. This includes Title 3 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations Part 79 (3 NYCRR 79), which establishes various requirements relating to the marketing, origination, servicing, and termination of reverse mortgage loans in New York, and Title 3 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations Part 38 (3 NYCRR 38), which addresses issues involving, among other things, commitments and advertising for mortgage loans generally. Even so, the letter noted that NYDFS is considering amending its existing regulations to specifically address coop-reverse mortgages, or issuing a separate regulation governing this as a new product. Finally, the letter explained that “institutions that seek to originate, or service coop-reverse mortgages are directed to comply with the provisions of 3 NYCRR 79, and 3 NYCRR 38 in originating or servicing such mortgages” (subject to described clarifications, modifications, and exclusions). However, NYDFS stated that “in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of Section 6-O*2 and provisions of either 3 NYCRR 79 or 3 NYCRR 38, the provisions of Section 6-O*2 will govern; and in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of 3 NYCRR 79 and 3 NYCRR 38, provisions of 3 NYCRR 79 will govern.”
- Jedd R. Bellman to discuss “The CFPB’s crackdown on collection junk fees and the growing anti-CFPB rhetoric” at an Accounts Recovery webinar
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Latest on AML regulations and impact of economic sanctions” at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Fundamentals of financial crime compliance” at the Practicing Law Institute
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar