A Realistic Assessment of Housing Finance Reform Posted: August 01, 2014
In August 2008, the GSEs went into conservatorship, and the clear intent was that they were never going to re-emerge; a new system, with a larger role for private capital providers was to take its place. Nearly six years later, GSE reform remains a dream: the government essentially guarantees 80% of new mortgage debt, and credit availability is limited. In this paper, we take a look at the current system, evaluate the proposals for GSE reform, and offer some thoughts on what is being done and what more can be done without a legislative solution.
Guarantee Fees - An Art, Not a Science
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This commentary examines the potential impact of increasing the guarantee fees that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge lenders. We identify the three most important assumptions made in determining the fees, conclude that transparency regarding these assumptions is critical, and that, under any reasonable set of assumptions, the fees should not be increased for the least risky loans. We also conclude that the GSEs' mission should be taken into account in determining the appropriate capital requirement.
Nonbank Specialty Servicers: What's the Big Deal? Posted: August 04, 2014
Following the crisis, nonbank specialty servicers rapidly expanded their portfolios of distressed loans. This has contributed to a significant market change: in 2011, the 10 largest mortgage servicers were all banks; by 2013, only five of the top 10 were banks, and the other five were nonbank servicers. The rapid growth and lack of a federal regulator have contributed to significant, heated regulatory scrutiny. This commentary discusses major concerns raised about the largest nonbank servicers, focusing on the three fastest-growing large nonbank servicers. We explore the regulatory and market framework driving their striking growth, then address the major charges against them, in an effort to elevate the debate and inform sound policy.
How To Stop Corporations From Fleeing U.S. Tax Laws Posted: July 28, 2014
In a contribution to The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, Eric Toder explains why corporations expatriate from the United States and argues that they will continue to do so until Congress addresses the fundamental flaws in the corporate income tax. He then provides some possible solutions to end the erosion of the U.S. corporate tax base.
Insights on Instability and Children's Development: Commentaries from Practitioners, Policymakers, and Researchers Posted: July 22, 2014
Concern is growing about the damage that instability can do to children's healthy development. However it has emerged separately across different domains, with little focus on the pervasive and interconnected nature of the issue or on possible cross-cutting policy solutions. In November 2013, the Urban Institute convened policymakers, practitioners, and researchers to discuss the implications of instability for children's development, as well as what we know, need to learn, and need to do across research, policy, and practice. This paper contains essays from some of the meeting participants; a companion report includes the insights from the conference.
VA Loans Outperform FHA Loans. Why? And What Can We Learn?
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Veterans Administration (VA) loans have consistently performed better than Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. In this commentary, we take a closer look at both programs to identify why VA loans perform better. We conclude that the residual income test may be a critical differentiating factor and suggest that regulators evaluate whether the test might be a good supplement to FHA’s current assessment of a borrower’s ability to pay.
Supplementing the Compare Ratio Posted: June 09, 2014
The FHA has been taking actions to reduce lender overlays, enhancing access to credit. Among these measures is the introduction of Supplemental Performance Metrics, to accompany the inflexible Lender Compare Ratios. In this article we reiterate the need for this type of metric, applaud the FHA for proposing it, and suggest a slight variation to make it even more effective.
Why the GSEs Need Congress to Exit Conservatorship Posted: May 30, 2014
Urban Institute fellow Jim Parrott and guest Jim Millstein discuss the prospect of long-term administrative reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The discussion begins with Parrott's commentary, "Why Long-Term GSE Reform Requires Congress" and continues with Millstein's blog post, "It's time for administrative reform to end the GSE conservatorships."
A Strong Pivot from the New Director of FHFA Posted: May 13, 2014
After Congressman Mel Watt was sworn in as the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency on January 6 of this year, he offered a few words of thanks and assurance and then promptly disappeared from the scene. This week, Director Watt broke the silence, giving his first major public speech as director. For the remarks, see here. Signaling the importance and range of his inaugural remarks, Watt used them to announce a revision of the agency's Strategic Plan and Scorecard, the policy documents that together provide both the vision of the agency and a set of incentives to push the leadership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the enterprises or the GSEs) to fulfill that vision.
National Mortgage Settlement
, Posted: April 14, 2014
In early 2012, the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers entered into a $25 billion settlement with the Department of Justice, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and 49 state Attorney Generals. This settlement, which addresses questionable servicing practices, was the largest joint state-federal civil settlement in US history. As a result, Bank of America, Citi, JP Morgan Chase, Rescap/Ally and Wells Fargo have since dispersed more than $50 billion in gross relief to over 600,000 families. In this commentary, we examine each servicer’s strategies in providing relief to borrowers, consider how those actions were impacted by the settlement's crediting system, and suggest improvements for future settlements.