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Official With Federal Reserve Explains To Real Estate Professionals Steps Fed Is Taking To Ease Mortgage Crisis
Linda Young - AHN Editor ~ March 27, 2008
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - A Federal Reserve governor on Wednesday explained steps the agency was taking to mitigate the mortgage crisis to a gathering of real estate professionals.
Governor Randall S. Kroszner of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System addressed the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals Legislative Conference 2008 in Washington, D.C. on the topic of "Protecting Homeowners and Sustaining Homeownership."
"The mortgage market has long been a source of strength in the U.S. economy, but it is facing significant challenges, especially in the subprime segment that serves consumers who have shorter or weaker credit records," Kroszner said, according to a transcript of his speech.
He gave the gathering the statistics from the most recent month data was available, saying that as of January about 24 percent of subprime adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were ninety or more days delinquent. That is twice the level of last year and about 190,000 of the foreclosures were started in the fourth quarter of last year, which represented an 11 percent increase in foreclosures from the third quarter, Kroszner said.
In addition, many of the mortgage defaults occurred within a few months of when the loan originated and those defaults were twice the percentage of a year earlier and four times the rate two years earlier, he told the audience.
Kroszner told the audience that problems with mortgage loan defaults "highlighted the shared interest of mortgage borrowers, their communities, lenders, and investors in protecting borrowers from abusive practices and preserving their choices."
He explained that it was in the best interest of everyone to protect borrowers from irresponsible loan underwriting practices and abusive loans that strip homeowners of equity or cause them to lose their homes. He said that protecting borrowers would restore investor confidence and make more capital available for home loans.
Keeping those interests in mind, Kroszner launched into an explanation of "current initiatives to mitigate foreclosures," which he said had been proposed to ensure that mortgage market consumers were protected "regardless of whether a borrower receives a loan from a bank, an independent mortgage company, or through a mortgage broker."
Tools already available to help prevent unnecessary foreclosures, Kroszner said included: initiatives to help borrowers that are in trouble, streamlined systematic approaches in mortgage servicing, (Yeah, right!) Federal Reserve outreach programs to work with financial institutions and communities to help borrowers and encouraging institutions that access at-risk homeowners to engage in foreclosure prevention initiatives.
In addition, Kroszner said that the Board had proposed stricter regulations that would prohibit abusive and deceptive practices in the mortgage market under authority of the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA).
He said the proposal was "intended to protect consumers and to preserve consumer choice by targeting protections to borrowers who face the most risk." Calling it "comprehensive," Kroszner said, "The proposal would focus protections where the risks are greatest and preserve consumers' access to responsible credit."
The proposal includes: a ban on prepayment penalties in certain instances, escrow accounts for taxes and insurance, income verification, assessment of repayment ability and loan specific disclosures early in the application process.
Public comment on the proposals ends on April 8.