Three U.S. agencies signed off this week on relaxed mortgage-lending rules. These new standards represent an effort to ensure more mortgage loans are available for borrowers. The Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the new rules for the mortgage-backed securities market, a day after three other agencies approved the standards.
The rules are intended to improve the quality of loans by giving banks a financial incentive to ensure mortgages can be repaid. The initial rules required that banks hold 5% of the risk of mortgages packaged and sold to investors or require a 20% borrower down payment. But regulators, concerned that overly stringent rules would harm the housing market’s recovery, recanted on the 20% down payment.
Instead, banks will be able to avoid the 5% risk-retention requirement if they verify a borrower’s ability to pay back the loan and comply with other requirements, such as ensuring borrowers’ debt payments do not exceed 43% of their income.
Officials say these standards are still sufficiently strong enough to prevent a repeat of some of the worst abuses from the housing market crisis, including loans in which the lender does nothing to verify a borrower’s income. The new rules, which go into effect in fall 2015, will be reviewed for its impact on the economy four years later, and every five years after that.
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