USMI Statement on FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium Reduction

WASHINGTON The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced today it will reduce its mortgage insurance premiums (MIPs) by 25 basis points. In November 2016, a HUD official stated there would be no additional MIPs cuts following its annual report to Congress on the financial status of its Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMIF), which showed it had finally reached its required capital levels after nearly a decade of severe stress. The following statement can be attributed to Lindsey Johnson, USMI President and Executive Director:

“While the MMIF is making needed improvements to its financial health, now is the time to establish a more coordinated housing policy to ensure broad access to low down payment lending while reducing the government’s footprint in housing and protecting taxpayers. Arbitrary reductions to the FHA’s MIP is bad policy because it pulls borrowers who would otherwise be served by the conventional Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac market, which is backed by private mortgage insurance for first losses versus the taxpayer. Taxpayers are currently exposed to $1.3 trillion in mortgage risk outstanding at FHA. As a result, and unless Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make commensurate fee adjustments to reflect the FHA decision, the government will likely assume increased amounts of mortgage credit risk.

“We agree with views of past FHA commissioners who contend private capital should play a leading role in guaranteeing low down payment mortgage credit risk so the government and taxpayer don’t have to. Given the wide availability of MI-backed mortgages, the FHA does not need to undercut private capital. USMI continues to believe that FHA serves a very important role, but it has expanded its footprint dramatically since the financial crisis and should instead remain focused on its core mission of serving underserved borrowers. FHA and the GSEs should be much more coordinated to promote broad sustainable homeownership.

“The last time FHA reduced its premiums in 2015, the move resulted in a high volume of FHA loan refinancing versus new mortgage origination, in essence maintaining the same borrowers and home loans while collecting less in insurance premiums. In other words, the same FHA mortgage credit risk but with less protection. This will result in a less financially resilient FHA and increased risk for taxpayers.”

For the consumer, private MI offers distinct advantages over FHA mortgage insurance. For instance, unlike FHA, private MI can be cancelled once approximately 20 percent equity is achieved either through payment or home price appreciation. This step immediately lowers the monthly mortgage for the homeowner.

Private mortgage insurers, who put their own capital at risk to mitigate mortgage credit risk, provided over $50 billion in credit risk protection since the financial crisis to the GSEs and did not take any taxpayer bailout. The market has been strengthened since the financial crisis as all MIs have all implemented significant new capital requirements, or the Private Mortgage Insurer Eligibility Requirements (PMIERs), which are stress-tested financial and capital requirements established by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, enhancing MI’s ability to assume mortgage credit risk in the future.

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U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI) is dedicated to a housing finance system backed by private capital that enables access to housing finance for borrowers while protecting taxpayers. Mortgage insurance offers an effective way to make mortgage credit available to more people. USMI is ready to help build the future of homeownership. Learn more at www.usmi.org.

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