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FHA announces policy changes

January 21, 2010

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner David Stevens yesterday outlined the new set of policy changes created to strengthen FHA’s capital reserves.

The FHA proposed the following steps: increase the mortgage insurance premium (MIP); update the combination of FICO scores and downpayments for new borrowers; reduce seller concessions to three percent from six percent; and implement a series of measures to increase lender enforcement. U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan previewed the changes in December of last year, noting that the FHA would announce additional details before the end of January.

Announced FHA policy changes:

1. The mortgage insurance premium (MIP) will be increased to build up capital reserves and bring back private lending

• The first step is to raise the upfront MIP by 50 bps to 2.25 percent and request legislative authority to increase the maximum annual MIP that FHA can charge.
• If this authority is granted, the second step is to shift some of the premium increase from the up-front MIP to the annual MIP.
• This shift will allow for the capital reserves to increase with less impact to the consumer, because the annual MIP is paid over the life of the loan instead of at the time of closing.
• The initial upfront increase is included in a Mortgagee Letter to be released today, Jan. 21, and will go into effect in the spring.

2. Update the combination of FICO scores and downpayments for new borrowers.

• New borrowers will now be required to have a minimum FICO score of 580 to qualify for FHA’s 3.5 percent downpayment program. New borrowers with less than a 580 FICO score will be required to put down at least 10 percent.
• This change will be posted in the Federal Register in February and, after a notice and comment period, go into effect in the early summer.

3. Reduce allowable seller concessions from 6 percent to 3 percent

• FHA says the current level exposes the FHA to excess risk by creating incentives to inflate appraised value.
• This change will be posted in the Federal Register in February, and after a notice and comment period, go into effect in the early summer.

4. Increase enforcement on FHA lenders

• Publicly report lender performance rankings to complement currently available Neighborhood Watch data will be on HUD’s website on Feb. 1. This is an operational change to make information user-friendly and hold lenders more accountable; it does not require new regulatory action as Neighborhood Watch data is currently publicly available.
• Enhance monitoring of lender performance and compliance with FHA guidelines and standards.
• Implement statutory authority through regulation of section 256 of the National Housing Act to enforce indemnification provisions for lenders using delegated insuring process.
• HUD is pursuing legislative authority to increase enforcement on FHA lenders.

In addition to these changes, FHA says it will continue to review its overall response to housing market conditions, and continuing to evaluate its mortgage insurance underwriting standards.




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