Mayer Brown has launched a cross-office, multidisciplinary Residential Finance Market Stress Task Force (the “Task Force”) to advise market participants navigating the current market stress. As one of a discrete group of law firms with significant expertise in residential finance transactional, restructuring, capital markets, regulatory, government enforcement and litigation practices, the team offers particular insight
Pay close attention to New Jersey Bill A793, the Community Wealth Preservation Act, which the New Jersey legislature passed at the end of June and sent to the Governor for consideration. While I’m not steeped in the intricacies of state foreclosure laws, it appears the Act would cap a holder’s bid at foreclosure sale…
On February 9, 2022, the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) released its Draft FHFA Strategic Plan: Fiscal Years 2022-2026 (the “2022 Strategic Plan”) for public input.
This year, FHFA added a novel objective to this plan – to identify options for incorporating climate change into FHFA’s governance of the entities it regulates.
Climate change is a serious threat to the US housing finance system. That is the conclusion reached by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) in a December 27th statement. In the statement, Acting FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson recognizes that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks have an important leadership…
The set of federal agencies tasked with determining which residential mortgage loans may be exempt from credit risk retention in securitizations are continuing to think about it. Late last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Reserve Board, Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (together, the “Agencies”) announced that they hope to have more answers by the end of this year. It seems likely those Agencies will continue to define those exempt mortgage loans (called “qualified residential mortgages,” or “QRMs”) in a manner that is fully aligned with the “qualified mortgage” (“QM”) definition of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) (which interestingly is not among the Agencies tasked with the QRM/risk retention rules). If it were that easy, though, the Agencies probably would have done that by now. Of course, the CFPB’s QM definition has been a moving target itself.
Continue Reading Agencies Still Pondering QRM
Earlier this year, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) issued a Request for Input (“RFI”) on the risks of climate change and natural disasters to the national housing finance markets. The RFI posed 25 questions on how FHFA can best identify, assess and respond to those risks for the entities FHFA regulates (Fannie Mae, Freddie…
Since the Inauguration on January 20th, the Biden Administration has busily issued orders to reverse certain policies of the prior administration. In customary fashion upon a change in political parties in the White House, President Biden’s Chief of Staff also sent a memorandum to executive departments and agencies to consider postponing pending rulemakings to allow review by the new slate of policymakers. Among those rules are two Qualified Mortgage (“QM”) Rules of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”).
New White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain’s memorandum specifies that for rules that have already been published or issued but have not yet taken effect, the agencies must consider postponing the rules’ effective dates for 60 days from the date of the memorandum (i.e., until March 21, 2021). If the agency postpones the effective date, the agency must consider opening a 30-day period for interested parties to provide more comments. The memorandum then instructs those agencies to consider whether even further delays are appropriate.
Speaking of engaging interested parties, the CFPB has been reconsidering QM issues for years. The agency has been spurred by a statutory requirement to assess and report on the 2013 QM Final Rule, as well as the January 10, 2021 expiration date of the special QM category for loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (the so-called “GSE Patch”). In all, over the course of several years, the CFPB has reportedly received more than 680 comments on QMs from creditors, industry groups, consumer advocacy groups, elected officials, and others. In response to that input, the CFPB issued a final rule extending the GSE Patch until the “mandatory compliance date” of a separate final rule that would revise the general QM category (or until the GSEs emerge from conservatorship), essentially erasing that looming GSE Patch expiration date. Then the CFPB issued two other final QM rules – one to revise the general QM definition and establish that mandatory compliance date, and one to create a seasoned QM category for certain mortgage loans that experience a period of timely payments.
In comparing the effective dates of those rulemakings to the White House’s January 20th memorandum, one can see that the CFPB successfully eliminated the January 2021 GSE Patch expiration date, because that rule became effective before the memorandum. However, the other two rules – which establish the Patch’s new expiration date/Mandatory Compliance Date (July 1, 2021), the new definition of QMs, and the seasoned QM – could get caught in the Biden Freeze.
Continue Reading Will the CFPB Freeze the GSE QM Patch?
Should US state nonbank mortgage servicers be subject to “safety and soundness” standards of the type imposed by federal law on insured depository institutions, even though the nonbanks do not solicit and hold customer funds in federally insured deposit accounts or pose a direct risk of a government bailout? Well, state mortgage banking regulators think…
As rumored, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is proposing to revise its general qualified mortgage definition by adopting a loan pricing test. Specifically, under the proposal, a residential mortgage loan would not constitute a qualified mortgage (“QM”) if its annual percentage rate (“APR”) exceeds the average prime offer rate (“APOR”) by 200 or more basis points. The CFPB also proposes to eliminate its QM debt-to-income (“DTI”) threshold of 43%, recognizing that the ceiling may have unduly restrained the ability of creditworthy borrowers to obtain affordable home financing. That would also mean the demise of Appendix Q, the agency’s much-maligned instructions for considering and documenting an applicant’s income and liabilities when calculating the DTI ratio.
The CFPB intends to extend the effectiveness of the temporary QM status for loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (the “GSE Patch”) until the effective date of its revisions to the general QM loan definition (unless of course those entities exit conservatorship before that date). That schedule will, the CFPB hopes, allow for the “smooth and orderly transition” away from the mortgage market’s persistent reliance on government support.
Last July, the CFPB started its rulemaking process to eliminate the GSE Patch (scheduled to expire in January 2021) and address other QM revisions. For the past five years, that Patch has solidified the post-financial crisis presence by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the market for mortgage loans with DTIs over 43%. The GSE Patch was necessary, the CFPB determined, to cover that portion of the mortgage market until private capital could return. The agency estimates that if the Patch were to expire without revisions to the general QM definition, many loans either would not be made or would be made at a higher price. The CFPB expects that the amendments in its current proposal to the general QM criteria will capture some portion of loans currently covered by the GSE Patch, and will help ensure that responsible, affordable mortgage credit remains available to those consumers.
Adopting a QM Pricing Threshold
Although several factors may influence a loan’s APR, the CFPB has determined that the APR remains a “strong indicator of a consumer’s ability to repay,” including across a “range of datasets, time periods, loan types, measures of rate spread, and measures of delinquency.” The concept of a pricing threshold has been on the CFPB’s white board for some time, although it was unclear where the agency would set it. Many had guessed the threshold would be 150 basis points, while some suggested it should be as high as 250 basis points. While the CFPB is proposing to set the threshold at 200 basis points for most first-lien transactions, the agency proposes higher thresholds for loans with smaller loan amounts and for subordinate-lien transactions.
In addition, the CFPB proposes a special APR calculation for short-reset adjustable-rate mortgage loans (“ARMs”). Since those ARMs have enhanced potential to become unaffordable following consummation, for a loan for which the interest rate may change within the first five years after the date on which the first regular periodic payment will be due, the creditor would have to determine the loan’s APR, for QM rate spread purposes, by considering the maximum interest rate that may apply during that five-year period (as opposed to using the fully indexed rate).
Eliminating the 43% DTI Ceiling
Presently, for conventional loans, a QM may be based on the GSE Patch or, for non-conforming loans, it must not exceed a 43% DTI calculated in accordance with Appendix Q. Many commenters on the CFPB’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking urged the agency to eliminate a DTI threshold, providing evidence that the metric is not predictive of default. In addition, the difficulty of determining what constitutes income available for mortgage payments is fraught with questions (particularly for borrowers who are self-employed or otherwise have nonstandard income streams). While the CFPB intended that Appendix Q would provide standards for considering and calculating income in a manner that provided compliance certainty both to originators and investors, the agency learned from “extensive stakeholder feedback and its own experience” that Appendix Q often is unworkable.
Continue Reading CFPB Hatches a QM Proposal for GSE Patch
In a new era of double-digit unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be tough for a mortgage lender to predict the amount and stability of someone’s income in order to determine qualification for a home loan. Neither past nor even present levels of income may be reliable indicators of income levels going forward, at least in the short run or until the economic dislocations are substantially behind us. That is why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the “government-sponsored enterprises,” or “GSEs”) recently issued enhanced documentation requirements and considerations for verifying and predicting the income of a self-employed applicant for a mortgage loan. While the GSEs’ documentation requirements apply via contract to approved lenders/sellers, whether those requirements will morph into legal requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act’s “ability to repay” requirements is something to watch in the coming months.
Revised GSE Underwriting Requirements for Eligible Loan Purchases
A determination of whether an applicant has the ability to repay a loan from his or her income or assets is a basic component of loan underwriting – as required both by federal (and sometimes state) law, and by a lender’s investors or insurers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit a lender of closed-end residential mortgage loans from relying on any income that is not verified by reliable documentation. Predicting whether that income will continue into the future takes skill when lending to self-employed borrowers under any circumstances, and is particularly tricky during this unique coronavirus economy. The now-waning government stay-at-home orders and other quarantining efforts may or may not have affected a particular borrower’s business operations, and the scale and duration of those effects going forward are difficult to predict.
In response to that uncertainty, on May 28, 2020 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued guidance requiring that self-employed borrowers must submit a year-to-date (“YTD”) profit and loss statement (“P&L”) that reports business revenue, expenses and net income.
Continue Reading Self-Employed Borrowers’ Income – Is the Past Necessarily Prologue?