The mortgage insurance industry plays an important role in the housing finance system, providing insurance against default by borrowers with low down payment loans. The industry struggled during the housing bust, and while it has done much to shore up its financial health in the subsequent recovery, more needs to be done to strengthen and stabilize the industry if it is to play the central role in the housing finance system that many envision for it.
The Private Mortgage Insurance Eligibility Requirements, recently put forth by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, are intended to do precisely that. A thoughtful effort, these standards should succeed in ensuring that private mortgage insurers are strong counterparties to the government-sponsored enterprises and a much improved bulwark against excessive risk in the system.
Several features of the rules as currently written, however, would likely unnecessarily increase costs and cyclicality in the mortgage and housing markets. With a few modest changes, these flaws can be remedied without sacrificing the considerable benefits of the new standards.