Newsletter: April 2017

Here is a roundup of recent news in the housing finance industry. USMI’s Lindsey Johnson interviews USMI Board Chairman Patrick Sinks on the 60th anniversary of the private mortgage insurance (MI) industry. Additionally, a recent congressional bill aimed at promoting greater transparency at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs) was passed by the House of Representatives, President Trump announced his nomination for Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released a new report on reform recommendations for the GSEs and housing finance system.

  • Private Mortgage Insurance Industry Turns 60. This week, USMI published a Q&A between USMI President and Executive Director Lindsey Johnson and USMI Chairman and Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. (MGIC) CEO Patrick Sinks. In their discussion, Johnson and Sinks discuss the past, present, and future of the MI industry, and how MI has helped people affordably become homeowners for 60 years.
  • House Bill Aims to Open GSE Records to FOIA. This week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1694, the Fannie and Freddie Open Records Act of 2017, by a unanimous vote. H.R. 1694, introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), would mandate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to accept and process Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the public, and release information to satisfy FOIA requests as long as they remain under federal conservatorship.
  • President Trump Announces Deputy Secretary of HUD Nomination. Today, President Trump announced the nomination of Pamela Patenaude to be Deputy Secretary of HUD. Patenaude is currently the President of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for America’s Families and previously served as Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission. USMI issued the following statement on Patenaude’s nomination:“Pam Patenaude is a strong choice to serve as Deputy Secretary for HUD. Throughout her career, she has been a proven leader on housing issues and will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the agency. USMI looks forward to working with Pam on the important issues facing the housing finance industry.”
  • MBA Releases New Report on Reform Recommendations for GSEs and Housing Finance System. This week, MBA released a report outlining its recommendations to reform the GSEs and the housing finance system. The report covers many areas such as the value of loan-level credit enhancement and the benefit of private MI, as well as promotes greater use of front-end credit risk sharing including through private MI. The report also recognizes the important functions of private market participants and reinforces that there should be a bright line between the functions of private market participants in the primary market and those of secondary market participants. In a statement on the report,  USMI President Lindsey Johnson said:“USMI is pleased to see MBA and other industry, trade and consumer groups provide ideas and proposals for how to reform the housing finance system and we look forward to continuing to work with MBA and others to promote reforms to the housing finance system to put more private capital in front of taxpayer risk and to create a more sustainable housing finance system that works for market participants, taxpayers and consumers. For 60 years, MI has provided effective credit risk protection for our nation’s mortgage finance system. This time-tested form of private capital should be the preferred method of absorbing credit loss in front of any government guaranty, helping to minimize taxpayer risk while ensuring mortgage credit remains accessible.”

Newsletter: December 2019

Here is a roundup of news surrounding recent developments in President-elect Donald Trump’s housing policy, key legislative proposals and also reports on the benefits of front-end credit risk sharing with deep cover mortgage insurance, and a new USMI blog post on unnecessary upfront risk fees (loan-level price adjustments) imposed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:

  • Nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Announced. Earlier this week, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Dr. Ben Carson as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • GSE Credit Risk Transfer Legislation Introduced in Congress. HousingWire and American Banker report that on December 8 Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives that would require the GSEs to offload more credit risk onto the private sector. The Taxpayer Protections and Market Access for Mortgage Finance Act of 2016 (H.R. 6487) seeks to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) to transfer more credit risk through front-end credit risk transfer (CRT) transactions to mitigate losses and risks to taxpayers and the federal government. In addition to other provisions, H.R. 6487 calls for a five-year pilot program to increase the amount of risk transferred away from the government before it reaches the GSEs’ balance sheets by using front-end CRT with private mortgage insurance (MI). This front-end MI-based CRT method is consistent with recommendations to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) from USMI and others, and builds upon the current, effective use of private mortgage insurance in the GSE system that has been in practice for decades.
  • Treasury Secretary Nominee Calls for GSEs to Exit Conservatorship. In recent comments, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, called for the GSEs to exit conservatorship, adding that government ownership of the companies displaces private capital in the housing finance system and that the Trump administration “will get it done reasonably fast.” President-elect Trump’s transition team noted that the need to structurally reform the GSEs has bipartisan agreement.
  • Housing Expert Extols Benefits of Front-End Credit Risk Transfer and Deeper Cover Mortgage Insurance. In a recent article, Faith Schwartz, a housing finance policy expert who has worked extensively with the federal government in the US housing market, wrote on the benefits of front-end credit risk transfer (CRT), including through the use of deeper cover mortgage insurance (MI). Schwartz notes that front-end CRT and deeper cover MI allow for greater transparency, more options in a counter-cyclical volatile market, inclusive institutional partners and borrower process, and allows the GSEs to reach their goals in de-risking their credit guarantee. Schwartz concludes her article by saying: “In summary, whether it is recourse to a lending institution or participation in the front-end MI cost structure, pricing this risk at origination will continue to bring forward price discovery and transparency. This means the consumer and lender will be closer to the true credit costs of origination. With experience pricing and executing on CRT, it may become clearer where the differential cost of credit lies. The additional impact of driving more front-end CRT will be scalability and less process on the back-end for the GSE’s. By leveraging the front-end model, GSE’s will reach more borrowers and utilize a wider array of lending partners through this process.”
  • Consumer and Civil Rights Groups Raise Concerns about LLPAs. The MReport writes that 21 groups sent a letter to FHFA Director Mel Watt and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on December 8 “expressing concern that too many creditworthy low- and moderate-income borrowers are being denied access to mortgage credit.” These groups state that “The increase in the Enterprises’ guarantee fees and risk-based pricing (LLPAs) has had a number of effects to varying degrees that some predicted, including more banks are holding fixed-rate loans on portfolio, more financing of lower-credit score borrowers by the Federal Housing Administration, and fewer originations to the underserved overall.”
  • ICYMI: Lindsey Johnson writes on Loan-Level Price Adjustments (LLPAs). In a new blog post, USMI President Lindsey Johnson highlights the need for the reduction or elimination of upfront risk fees (LLPAs) based on a borrower’s credit score and down payment. In the blog, Johnson explains how this risk is already protected by private mortgage insurance, paid for by the homeowner. LLPAs, which were put in place in 2008, are increasingly unnecessary following the enactment of stronger underwriting standards for privately insured mortgages and in essence double charge a borrower for the same risk. Johnson encourages the FHFA and the GSEs to continue to work to manage risk, however LLPAs have become arbitrary fees that make homeownership more expensive or puts homeownership out of reach for many middle and lower income homebuyers. USMI was part of a group of 25 organizations that wrote a letter to FHFA Director Mel Watt in June calling for FHFA and the GSEs to reduce to eliminate LLPAs.