Letter: Statement to Senate Finance Committee Hearing, “The Role of Tax Incentives in Affordable Housing”

USMI submitted a statement for the record to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance for its July 20 hearing, “The Role of Tax Incentives in Affordable Housing.” USMI writes “that there are tax policies that can be improved in order to help American family achieve the American Dream of homeownership. More specifically, we strongly support S. 3590, the Middle Class Mortgage Insurance Premium Act of 2022, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan and Roy Blunt.” See here for the full letter.

Letter: Joint Trades Letter on Enterprise Credit Score Model Framework

USMI submitted a comment letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in regards to the implementation of Section 310 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 (“the Act”). As FHFA prepares to implement the Act, we write to request that it provide additional data, a detailed transition plan that is subject to stakeholder input, and ample time for any transition. This request need not delay FHFA’s decision regarding its review and approval of one or more credit score models, but instead would ensure that the transition to one or more new models is as smooth as possible. See here for the full letter.

Letter: Comments on FHFA’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan

On March 11, 2022, USMI submitted a comment letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Acting Director Sandra Thompson on the agency’s draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026. USMI supports the overarching goals articulated in the Strategic Plan to: (1) secure the government sponsored enterprises’ (GSEs) safety soundness; (2) foster housing finance markets that promote equitable access to affordable and sustainable housing; and (3) responsibly steward the FHFA’s infrastructure. USMI offered additional recommendations and observations, including that FHFA should work in concert with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to ensure that pricing promotes borrower choice and allows the GSEs to advance access and affordability in the housing finance system, and that FHFA should implement policies that allow industry participants and consumer advocate organizations to serve as partners to the GSEs on initiatives that aim to promote equitable housing, address barriers to homeownership, and continue prudent risk management. Read the full letter here.

Letter: Comments to CFPB on HDMA Rule Assessment

USMI submitted a comment letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in response to its Request for Information (RFI) on the assessment of the 2015 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) Rule. In the letter, USMI discusses the importance of the HMDA Rule in eliminating lender discrimination and its value in monitoring how regulatory changes impact who receives mortgages. USMI believes that the benefits of the HMDA Rule’s expanded reporting requirements, including for compliance personnel and technology systems, outweigh the incremental costs for mortgage lenders to comply with the rule. We encourage the CFPB to work with the FHFA to expand analytical capabilities by publicly releasing more granular loan-level mortgage origination data. Click here to read the full letter.


Letter: Comments to FHFA on Amendments to the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework Rule

In November 2021, USMI submitted a comment letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) on “Amendments to the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework (ERCF) Rule – Prescribed Leverage Buffer Amount and Credit Risk Transfer.” In its comments, USMI writes the final rule ensures the Enterprises have sufficient levels of capital to withstand a steep economic downturn but recommends the following to FHFA:  

  • Adjust credit risk transfer (CRT) minimum risk weight floor to lower than 5 percent. USMI writes that any CRT floor should be designed to consider whether it will have the unintended consequences of discouraging the use of CRT or motivate CRT structures in which the Enterprises retain credit risk simply to justify the arbitrary capital floor. It urges FHFA to consider adjusting the CRT minimum risk weight floor lower than its proposed 5 percent change to a level closer to the statistically determined risk in a retained position to better align the CRT decisioning with the underlying economics and risks posed by the transaction. USMI also recommends FHFA establish and make public the model used to assess the CRT capital benefit, the statistical basis for any floor, and an analysis of the CRT capital treatment impact on the statutory goals of the Enterprises.  
  • Consider alternative methods to determine the Prescribed Leverage Buffer Amount (PLBA). USMI agrees that the PLBA needs to be adjusted, and that 1.5 percent is excessive, but it recommends FHFA consider alternative methods of determining the amount of the PLBA that more closely relate to risk than the Stability Capital Buffer. USMI writes that it emphatically agrees that the PLBA should not be the usual binding constraint on the Enterprises. However, the NPR does not explain why 50 percent of the Stability Capital Buffer is the appropriate standard. The Stability Capital Buffer itself is a subjectively determined capital requirement and no rationale has been provided for why 5 basis points times market share over 5 percent is chosen, how it is related to the risk, or why the threat to the national housing finance system is not adequately dealt with through the other elements of the ERCF.  
  • Reduce the single-family risk weight floor to 10 percent or less. USMI recommends the minimum 20 percent risk weight floor for single-family mortgages be reduced to 10 percent or less to more accurately account for the improvements in mortgage lending since the 2008 financial crisis, and to reflect and allow for credit enhancement, while also still requiring the Enterprises to hold an amount of capital against remote credit risk exposure more accurately. Reducing the single-family risk weight floor to 10 percent or less better achieves this outcome.  
  • Make changes to the Countercyclical Adjustment. While FHFA does not discuss in the NPR, USMI does comment on the Countercyclical Adjustment impact within the 2020 ERCF final rule. Significant home price appreciation (HPA), such as what occurred over the last two years, under the Countercyclical Adjustment, will require the Enterprises to hold more capital against higher mark-to-market loan-to-value (MTMLTV) loans, likely resulting in increased pricing of these loans. Specifically, USMI urges FHFA to:  
    • Reconsider and recalibrate the Countercyclical Adjustment. USMI recommends this to ensure the outcome of this adjustment meet FHFA’s policy objectives and considers real-world scenarios where there is significant home price appreciation above or below an inflation adjusted long-term trend.   
    • Report on whether significant HPA is based on market fundamentals or something else. While FHFA notes in the final rule it does not have discretion around the Countercyclical Adjustment, this should be re-evaluated. Based on market data, including FHFA’s own Housing Price Index, the agency should determine and report on why home prices are escalating. It may be appropriate for FHFA to have discretion to cap capital increases to up to 20 percent when HPA exceeds a certain threshold, rather than allowing for a 40-50 percent increase as would be applicable in today’s market with today’s market HPA.  
    • Consider recalibrating the Countercyclical Adjustment based on the reassessment. To address the significant impact that the current approach can have on the required capital, and thus the pricing of certain loans, FHFA should consider the different recommendations made in the 2020 NPR responses, including using asymmetric MTMLTV collars, and/or allowing for wider collars (perhaps 7.5 or 10 percent) during increased HPA versus when home prices are declining, or capping the capital increases to up to 20 percent when HPA exceeds a certain threshold. 
    • Simplify the language and formula for the Countercyclical Adjustment. The Countercyclical Adjustment element of the ERCF is extremely complex and difficult to analyze.  It would benefit all stakeholders if FHFA took a more direct and simpler to read and analyze approach to this section. 


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. 

Press Release: USMI Submits Comment Letter on FHFA’s Request for Input on Enterprise Equitable Housing Finance Plans

WASHINGTON — U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI), the association representing the nation’s leading private mortgage insurance (MI) companies, submitted a comment letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) on its Request for Input (RFI) on “Enterprise Equitable Housing Finance Plans” (the Plans), which articulates a framework by which the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs or Enterprises), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will be required to prepare and implement three-year plans to advance equity in housing finance.

“USMI commends the FHFA for soliciting feedback on the Plans to identify the barriers to sustainable housing opportunities, set goals to address those barriers, and implement policies to address them. The private MI industry welcomes the opportunity to work with FHFA, the GSEs, and other housing finance stakeholders to support the Biden Administration’s goal of a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all,” said Lindsey Johnson, President of USMI. “As an industry that is dedicated to the U.S. housing finance system and exclusively serves homebuyers with limited access to funds for large down payments, USMI and its member companies are keenly interested in advancing policies that promote access to the conventional mortgage market and support sustainable homeownership.”

In order to address longstanding inequities in the housing finance system, USMI encourages the GSEs to explore and implement geography- (including historically redlines areas, areas of concentrated poverty, and rural areas) and income-based initiatives to expand minority homebuying opportunities in the conventional mortgage market.

On behalf of the private mortgage industry, USMI routinely engages with policymakers to sustainably expand access to homeownership and address barriers that disproportionately impact minority homebuyers. USMI believes that the following actions represent viable policies to promote sustainable homeownership and level the playing field for minority homebuyers:

  • Review and Reform Loan-Level Price Adjustments (LLPAs): As 2008-era LLPA fees remain in place and continue to be disproportionately paid in the form of higher interest rates by low- and moderate-income (LMI) and minority borrowers, USMI urges the FHFA to review and reform LLPAs. Changes in the LLPA framework should account for the numerous improvements in the housing finance system since LLPAs were introduced in 2008, promote access to affordable conventional mortgages, and appropriately balance the credit risk being assumed by the GSEs.  Given all of the significant improvements in mortgage lending and risk management, USMI supports a holistic review of GSE pricing, including LLPAs, and the current level of cross-subsidization to support LMI homebuyers.
  • Review and Revise the Enterprise Regulatory Capital Framework (ERCF): As stated in USMI’s August 31, 2020 comment letter, USMI supports FHFA’s efforts to establish capital standards for the GSEs that appropriately reflect their activities and risk exposures to ensure that capital requirements do not arbitrarily price prospective homebuyers out of the conventional mortgage market. As entities with congressionally-mandated public missions, the GSEs’ capital requirements should promote an appropriate level of cross-subsidization and support LMI borrowers. USMI welcomed FHFA’s September 15 release of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) to amend the ERCF to address two critical elements: (1) the prescribed leverage buffer amount (PLBA); and (2) the treatment of credit risk transfer (CRT) transactions. Ultimately, USMI believes that the proposed changes, coupled with the additional recommendations made by USMI, will more appropriately balance prudent risk management and the level of capital for the GSEs, and their statutory missions. 
  • Modify the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements (PSPAs): USMI welcomed FHFA’s September 14 announcement on the suspension of portions of the January 2021 PSPA amendments, most notably the caps on the acquisition of “high-risk” loans. USMI encourages the agency to remove, and not merely suspend, the provisions concerning the so-called “high-risk” loan acquisition caps that disproportionately impact minority access to conventional mortgages.
  • Finalize the New Products and Activities Rule: While innovation can be beneficial for expanding homeownership opportunities, USMI highlights the need for a transparent and thorough regulatory mechanism to assess new GSE activities and products to ensure they do not disintermediate other market participants. USMI is encouraged by FHFA’s ongoing review of the GSEs’ pilots, activities, and products to ensure they align with the Enterprises’ explicit public policy objectives in compliance with their charters. USMI believes that new products, activities, and pilots should only be allowed when there is clear and compelling evidence that the GSEs are needed to fill a market void that the private market cannot meet.
  • Greater Data and Transparency: To address longstanding inequities in the housing finance system, USMI strongly believes that consistent transparency should be hard-wired into the GSEs’ credit policies and that data around the Enterprises’ performance in key areas, most notably access to credit for minority households, should be publicly available. As noted in USMI’s comment letter, the association firmly believes that additional transparency and data sharing initiatives will enable market participants to enhance access, affordability, and sustainability in the mortgage markets. 

“USMI fully supports increased public-private collaboration along with advancing a coordinated housing policy that ensures all borrowers have access to mortgage products in both the conventional and government-backed markets while maintaining safe and sound operations at the GSEs. Policymakers and stakeholders should work together to implement policies that promote access to sustainable housing finance credit to ensure the ability of consumers to purchase and stay in their homes.”

USMI’s full comments on the FHFA’s RFI on the Plans can be found here.


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.

Letter: Comments on CFPB’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Qualified Mortgage Definition

WASHINGTON Lindsey Johnson, President of U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI), today released the following statement on the organization’s comment letter submitted in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“the Bureau”) Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the “Qualified Mortgage (QM) Definition under the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z).”

“As takers of first-loss mortgage credit risk with more than six decades of expertise and experience underwriting and actively managing that risk, USMI members understand the need to balance prudent underwriting with a clear and transparent standard that maintains access to affordable and sustainable mortgage finance credit for home-ready borrowers. The upcoming expiration of the temporary QM category, often referred to as the “GSE Patch,” provides an important opportunity for the Bureau to assess what has developed within the marketplace since the enactment of the QM Rule. Notably, mortgage lending has been done with far greater diligence by market participants to ensure consumers have a reasonable ability-to-repay (ATR) and has resulted in a much stronger housing finance system. Further, the GSE Patch has played a critical role in maintaining credit availability. In our comments to the Bureau, we offer specific recommendations for replacing the current GSE Patch to establish a single transparent and consistent QM definition in a way to balance access to mortgage finance credit and proper underwriting guardrails to ensure consumers’ ATR. USMI’s recommendations include:

  • Maintaining the ATR and product restrictions as part of any updates to the QM definition to ensure discipline in the lending community and to protect consumers;
  • Retaining specific underwriting guardrails such as the current debt-to-income (DTI) component of the QM definition, but modifying the specific threshold to better serve consumers; and
  • Developing a single set of transparent compensating factors for loans with DTIs above 45 and up to 50 percent for defining QM across all markets, similar to how the GSEs, FHA, and VA use compensating factors in their respective markets today.

“Retaining specific thresholds in measuring a consumer’s income, assets, and financial obligations better serves consumers and ensures that the statutory and regulatory intent of measuring a consumer’s ATR is met. Further, adjusting the current DTI limit from 43% to 45% for all loans, and up to 50% for loans with accompanying compensating factors creates a more transparent and level playing field that provides greater certainty for borrowers and lenders and reduces the impact of the expiration of the GSE Patch. USMI believes that the development of a single transparent industry standard will facilitate greater consistency across all lending channels and ensure there is not market arbitrage to achieve QM status.

“USMI applauds the Bureau for undertaking the necessary process for updating this critical rule that is aimed at enhancing lending standards and consumer protection. We look forward to working with the Bureau as it seeks to implement any changes to this important rule.”

Following the release of the Bureau’s ANPR in July, USMI published a blog with observations and recommendations for replacing the GSE Patch.


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.


Letter: Infrastructure Bipartisan Senate Group on Usage of G-Fees

USMI joined a coalition of other housing finance organizations, including National Association of REALTORS® and National Housing Conference, in sending a letter to the bipartisan Senate group negotiating infrastructure framework. In this letter, the coalition requested that lawmakers refrain from utilizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the government sponsored enterprises or “GSEs”) guarantee fees (“g-fees”) as a source of funding offsets. As representatives of institutions that span the entire housing finance ecosystem, the coalition reaffirmed the belief that g-fees should only be used as originally intended: as a critical risk management tool to protect against potential mortgage credit losses and to support the GSEs’ charter duties. Read the full letter here.

Letters to Congress: MI Premium Deductibility Proposal

USMI joined Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Home Builders, and National Association of REALTORS® in submitting letters to Chairman Richard Neal and Ranking Member Kevin Brady of the House Committee on Ways and Means as well as Chairman Ron Wyden and Ranking Member Mike Crapo of the Senate Finance Committee. The letters recommend that the mortgage insurance premium tax deduction be made permanent and the adjusted gross income (AGI) phaseout be eliminated. The current phaseout represents a burdensome eligibility criterion for American families to claim MI deduction and millions more homeowners would benefit from a permanent extension that eliminates the AGI phaseout. As affordability remains a persistent barrier to homeownership across the country, permanently making the MI premium tax deductible and eliminating the AGI phaseout would support both existing homeowners as well as prospective homebuyers.