Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
FHFA requests feedback on single-family pricing framework
Recently, the FHFA issued a request for input (RFI) on a single-family pricing framework for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs), including feedback on policy priorities and goals that FHFA should pursue in its oversight of the framework. “Through this RFI, FHFA seeks input on how to ensure the pricing framework adequately protects the [GSEs] and taxpayers against potential future losses, supports affordable, sustainable housing and first-time homebuyers, and fosters liquidity in the secondary mortgage market,” FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson said in the announcement. The RFI also seeks input on the GSEs’ single-family upfront guarantee fees and whether it is appropriate to continue linking those fees to the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework. FHFA explained that guarantee fees are intended to cover the GSEs’ administrative costs, expected credit losses, and cost of capital associated with guaranteeing securities backed by single-family mortgage loans. Comments on the RFI are due August 14.
FHFA rescinds GSE fee based on DTI ratios
On May 10, FHFA announced it is rescinding a debt-to-income-based loan-level pricing adjustment announced in January. As previously covered by InfoBytes, 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 included the upfront fee eliminations announced last October to increase pricing support for purchase borrowers limited by income or by wealth, FHFA said at the time. The implementation of the DTI pricing adjustment, which would have affected loans acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was delayed to August 1, but after the mortgage industry and other market participants expressed concerns about implementation challenges, FHFA made the decision to rescind the DTI-ratio based fee to provide additional transparency. The agency will issue a request for public input on the single-family guarantee fee pricing framework shortly.
FHFA seeks to codify fair lending oversight
On April 19, FHFA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to codify several existing practices and programs relating to the agency’s fair lending oversight requirements for the Federal Home Loan Banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). Intended to provide increased public transparency and greater oversight and accountability to the regulated entities’ fair housing and fair lending compliance, the NPRM seeks to also formalize requirements for the GSEs to maintain Equitable Housing Finance Plans, which are designed to address racial and ethnic disparities in homeownership and wealth and foster housing finance markets that provide equitable access to affordable and sustainable housing (covered by InfoBytes here). The NPRM will also codify requirements for the GSEs to collect and report homeownership education, housing counseling, and language preference information from the Supplemental Consumer Information Form (SCIF). Lenders are required to use the SCIF as part of the application process for loans with application dates on or after March 1, that will be sold to the GSEs (covered by InfoBytes here). Comments on the NPRM are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
FHFA rule targets GSE eligibility in colonias
On April 12, FHFA published a final rule amending its Enterprise Duty to Serve Underserved Markets regulation. The final rule, which was adopted without change from the proposed rule issued last year (covered by InfoBytes here), allows Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSE) activities in all colonia census tracts to be eligible for Duty to Serve credit. Specifically, the amendment adds a “colonia census tract” definition to serve as a census tract-based proxy for a “colonia” (as generally applied to “unincorporated communities along the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas that are characterized by high poverty rates and substandard living conditions”). The final rule also amends the “high-needs rural region” definition by substituting “colonia census tract” for “colonia,” and revises the definition of “rural area” to include all colonia census tracts regardless of their location, in order to make GSE activities in all colonia census tracts eligible for duty to serve credit. The final rule takes effect July 1.
FHFA updates GSE equitable housing finance plans
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.
FHFA expands deferral policies for hardships
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.
FHFA seeks feedback on updated credit score requirements
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).
FHFA delays effective date of DTI ratio-based fee
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].”
HUD establishes 40-year loss-mit option
On March 8, HUD published a final rule in the Federal Register to allow mortgagees to increase the maximum term of a loan modification from 360 to 480 months for FHA-insured mortgages after a borrower defaults. HUD explained that “[i]ncreasing the maximum term limit will allow mortgagees to further reduce the borrower’s monthly payment as the outstanding balance would be spread over a longer time frame, providing more borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages the ability to retain their homes after default.” The change also aligns FHA with modifications made available to borrowers with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which provide a 40-year loan modification option. HUD considered public comments in response to a proposed rule published last April (covered by InfoBytes here), and noted that commenters said a 40-year loan modification option would provide significant relief to struggling borrowers. Concurrently, HUD published Mortgagee Letter 2023-06 to establish the standalone 40-year loan modification policy. The final rule is effective May 8.
Fannie says appraisals are no longer required to establish market value
On March 1, Fannie Mae issued a Selling Guide announcement to introduce a range of options for establishing a property’s market value, noting that it is “moving away from implying that an appraisal is a default requirement.” As part of Fannie’s efforts to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the home valuation process, it is rolling out choices that balance “traditional appraisals with appraisal alternatives.” Options introduce the term “value acceptance,” which will be “used in conjunction with the term ‘appraisal waiver’ to better reflect the actual process of using data and technology to accept the lender-provided value.” A new option, “value acceptance + property data” will use property data collected by vetted third parties that conduct interior and exterior data collection on a property. This data will be used by the lender to confirm property eligibility (an appraisal will not be required). “Hybrid appraisals” will be “based on interior and exterior property data collection by a vetted and trained third-party that is provided to an appraiser to inform the appraisal.” Fannie explained that hybrid appraisals will be “permitted for certain one-unit transactions where value acceptance + property data was initially started, but changes in loan characteristics results in the transaction not being eligible for that option.”
The updates also allow for alternative methods to the Appraisal Update and/or Completion Report, including a borrower/builder attestation letter verifying completion of construction, and a borrower attestation letter confirming completion of repairs for existing construction. The updates also provide additional guidance on the use of sweat equity and revise timelines and expectations for lenders’ prefunding and post-closing quality control reviews, among other things.