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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 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 January 12, FHFA released an advisory bulletin communicating supervisory expectations for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) related to the valuation of mortgage servicing rights (MSRs) for managing counterparty credit risk. FHFA emphasized that Fannie and Freddie’s “risk management policies and procedures should be commensurate with an Enterprise’s risk appetite and based on an assessment of seller/servicer financial strength and MSR risk exposure levels.” FHFA relayed that while sellers and servicers assign values to their MSRs, the Enterprises should implement their own processes to evaluate the reasonableness of seller/servicer MSR values. FHFA explained that Fannie and Freddie are “exposed to counterparty credit risk when seller/servicers provide representations and warranties that mortgage loans conform with its selling guide requirements,” and reiterated that “[f]ailure to meet such obligations and commitments may cause the Enterprise to incur credit losses and operational costs.”
The advisory bulletin lays out risk management expectations to ensure MSR values are reasonable, objective, and transparent, and provides guidance covering several areas, including (i) objective evaluation of MSR values; (ii) MSR valuations for mortgage loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie as well as stress testing; (iii) MSR valuations for mortgage loans not owned or guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie; (iv) market data input; (v) use of third-party providers; (vi) frequency of evaluations; and (vii) discount to MSR values when servicing rights are terminated. The advisory bulletin is applicable only to MSRs for single-family mortgage loans and is effective April 1.
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 22, GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced replacement indices based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) for their legacy LIBOR indexed loans and securities (see here and here). The announcement follows the Federal Reserve Board’s final rule setting forth recommended replacement rates for financial contracts based on LIBOR (covered by InfoBytes here). For single-family mortgage loans and related mortgage-backed securities, the GSEs selected the relevant tenor of CME Term SOFR plus the applicable tenor spread adjustment, as published and provided by Refinitiv Limited (also known as “USD IBOR Cash Fallbacks” for “Consumer” products). The transition to the replacement indices will occur the day after June 30, 2023, which is the last date on which the Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. Benchmark Administration Limited will publish a representative rate for all remaining tenors of U.S. dollar LIBOR. The GSEs also published replacement indices for multifamily mortgage loans and related mortgage-backed securities, single family and multifamily collateralized mortgage obligations and credit risk transfer securities, and derivatives.
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 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.
On October 24, FHFA announced the validation and approval of both the FICO 10T credit score model and the VantageScore 4.0 credit score model for use by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). The agency also announced that the GSEs will require two credit reports from the national consumer reporting agencies, rather than three. According to the announcement, FHFA expects implementation of FICO 10T and VantageScore 4.0 to be a multiyear effort, but once in place, lenders will be required to deliver both FICO 10T and VantageScore 4.0 credit scores with each loan sold to the GSEs. FHFA noted that FICO 10T and VantageScore 4.0 are more accurate than the classic FICO model because they include payment history for factors like rent, utilities, and telecommunications. FHFA also released a Fact Sheet on the newly approved models, which “will improve accuracy, strengthen access to credit, and enhance safety and soundness.”
On October 17, Freddie Mac announced that beginning November 6, borrowers’ bank account data will be included as part of its loan purchase eligibility assessments. This “industry-first capability” will be made available to lenders and brokers through Freddie’s automated Loan Product Advisor (LPA) underwriting system. “With the addition of positive monthly cash flow data, our underwriting system can help with more accurately predicting a borrower’s ability to pay their mortgage because it uses a comprehensive view of how personal finances are managed over time,” Freddie said in its announcement. “Our latest innovation levels the playing field and helps make homes more accessible to borrowers whose lenders might not have qualified them with traditional methods of underwriting. This should particularly help first-time homebuyers and underserved communities.”
Lenders and brokers must obtain borrowers’ permission in order to submit financial data showing 12 or more months of cash flow activity. Data may be obtained from checking, savings, and investment accounts, including those used for direct deposit of income and monthly bill payments, such as rent, utilities, and auto loans, Freddie said, stressing that “account data submitted can only positively affect the borrower’s credit risk assessment.” Lenders and brokers will also be able to obtain financial account data from designated third-party service providers through LPA’s asset and income modeler—the same automated process used to verify assets, income, employment, and on-time rent payments, Freddie explained. Additionally, LPA will advise lenders when a borrower may benefit from the submission of additional account data.
The announcement follows Freddie’s decision to start considering on-time rent payments as part of its loan purchase decisions to increase homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)