Agents, Lenders Still Fearful of Qualified Mortgage Rule

Some lenders and analysts fear that credit will be severely restricted by new mortgage rules in 2012.

A new rule making its way through Washington could restrict access to home loans when the market needs them the most, agents and lenders fear.

The rule, which would stipulate what characteristics a mortgage must have to be labeled “qualified,” is one of the more controversial elements of 2010′s Dodd-Frank bill.

Lenders and agents have both alleged that rather than freeing the market of risky loans – the proposed intention of the rule – the rule would instead place such a burden on banks that credit would be restricted even more in the post-boom economy.

Government efforts to sway industry opinion have, thus far, been unsuccessful, according to a recent Wall Street Journal piece on the divisive rule.

Jen Howard, a spokeswoman for the consumer bureau, said in the Journal‘s article that the government is attempting to balance consumer interest with business practices.

“[The rule] will have a significant impact on the mortgage market, and we want to get it right for consumers,” Howard said. “Striking the right balance will depend on a careful analysis of the facts and the data. At this point, we are still weighing the options and no decisions have been made.”

Probably the biggest cause for the industry’s skepticism has been a proposed rule that would require banks to accept minimum down payments of 20 percent for “qualified” loans, a standard that few homeowners would be able to meet, industry advocates have argued.

In fact, so doubtful are those advocates that representatives from 33 lobbying group sent a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau yesterday stating their grievances with the agency’s pending regulations, notably the down payment rule.

Moe Veissi, the president of the National Association of Realtors, one of the groups involved in the letter, said the regulations would go too far in their aims to protect consumers.

“As the leading advocate for housing and homeownership, NAR supports a QM definition that establishes strong consumer protections, but promotes mortgage liquidity and affordability so that a wide range of creditworthy consumers will be able to find mortgage financing,” Veissi said. “A narrow QM would certainly harm consumers by increasing borrowing costs and further restricting already tight lending conditions, which could curtail the country’s fragile real estate and economic recoveries.”

This is hardly the first time that qualified mortgages and the CFPB’s role in Dodd-Frank have come up on our webpages. The last few months, the CFPB has been releasing statements on its progress in implementing the regulations, and we even devoted a large share of the cover story in our latest lending issue to the topic.

In your mind, which side is right? Are further regulations needed to clean up the mortgage market, or has lending been so restrictive in the post-boom economy that the last thing we need is more regulations to jump through?

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