Sen Clinton Announces Plan to Address Mortgage Lending Abuses

DERRY, NH – With foreclosure rates continuing to skyrocket across the country, Senator Hillary Clinton in Derry, NH today laid out a plan to preserve the American dream of home ownership that would crack down on unscrupulous brokers, curb mortgage lending abuses, assist families facing foreclosure and expand affordable housing options.

“Today, we have a choice. We can look at the statistics, wring our hands, and continue to do nothing, or we can do what America has always done in times of difficulty: acknowledge that we face a real challenge, and confront it head-on with real solutions,” said Clinton. “I think the choice is clear. I think we need to act now, with smart, practical solutions to strengthen our housing and mortgage markets. If I were President, I would address abuses across the mortgage industry with a plan to curb unfair lending practices and hold brokers and lenders accountable, give families the support they need to avoid foreclosure, and increase the supply of affordable housing.”

New Hampshire resident Kristi Schofield joined Senator Clinton in Derry today. On July 31st, Kristi and her husband Paul lost their home of eight years in East Hamstead, NH because it had been purchased by the bank at a foreclosure auction. Yesterday, their mortgage company asked them to be out of the house in 17 days. They had planned to raise their three children and spend the rest of their lives in their home, but their adjustable rate mortgage payments continued to climb from $2,400 to its current level of $6,000 a month.

"We tried to do the right thing and continued to make the payments as long as we could with our savings and what earnings we had from unemployment, temporary and part time work. My husband had a good job, we had a great home. We were living our dream. Hillary Clinton is standing up today because she wants to help protect the American dream,” said Schofield.

Earlier in the year, the problems in mortgages seemed limited mostly to subprime loans. According to the New York Times, nearly 14 percent of subprime borrowers were delinquent in the first quarter. Now, there is increasing evidence that problems have spread beyond just subprime mortgages. There were 1.3 million foreclosures last year, and there have been more than 900,000 foreclosure filings so far this year. In New Hampshire, there were approximately 150 foreclosure filings last year, but there were more than 1,400 in the first six months of this year. The home is the largest asset most people have. The loss of it affects everything from people’s economic security, to their retirement plans, to their ability to pay for their children’s education.

To make matters worse, home prices are weakening and sales have slowed. It would now take almost nine months to work off the inventory of unsold homes. And this growing problem with mortgages may be limiting access to credit for middle class families. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “jittery home-mortgage lenders are cutting off credit or raising interest rates for a growing portion of Americans . . .” This threatens to become another hurdle to home ownership, the greatest source of wealth for average Americans.

“We need to put an end to fly-by-night mortgage brokers peddling loans to unqualified applicants based on inflated appraisals. We need to help those facing the pain of foreclosure. We need to secure the marketplace and put reforms in place right now,” said Clinton.

PROTECTING THE DREAM OF HOME OWNERSHIP

 

Senator Clinton’s plan will curb mortgage abuses, assist families facing foreclosure, and expand affordable housing to protect the American dream of home ownership. She will introduce her plan when Congress returns in September.

Crack Down on Unscrupulous Brokers:

Require mortgage brokers to disclose to borrowers that their compensation rises when borrowers’ mortgage rates and mortgage fees are high. Too many prospective homebuyers believe that the mortgage broker is acting on their behalf. In fact brokers earn more when they steer borrowers to mortgages with higher rates and fees. The broker’s and borrower’s interests are not always aligned. Borrowers need to be aware of this when assessing the advice brokers give them. To address this need, Hillary will require that brokers disclose to borrowers how they are paid.

 

Work with states to develop strong licensing standards and require federal registration for mortgage brokers. Unscrupulous brokers have steered people into high cost mortgages, qualified them for loans they could not afford, and attached fees unnecessarily. These brokers are responsible for many of the lending abuses that occurred in recent years, but there is no single, national source for information about individual brokers. Hillary will establish national registration for brokers so that prospective borrowers can easily look up a broker’s employment history, violations, complaints, and other information. As President, she will also work with the states to develop strong licensing standards to ensure that mortgage brokers are qualified and properly screened.

 

Crack Down on Mortgage Lending Abuses:

Eliminate prepayment penalties on mortgage products. Prepayment penalties, which are often used on subprime, Alt-A, and non-traditional mortgages, are a problem for borrowers. These penalties can lock borrowers into loans until the rates and monthly payments escalate. Families should not be discouraged from responsibly paying off their mortgages early, particularly when this would allow them to avoid balloon payments or high floating rates. Studies have shown that loans with prepayment penalties have a 52% greater risk of default than those without. Hillary will restrict the use of prepayment penalties.

 

Require mortgage lenders to include the cost of taxes and insurance in the underwriting assessment of higher-risk mortgages. Many borrowers fail to consider taxes and insurance costs when weighing whether they can afford a particular mortgage. Sometimes, lenders exclude those costs from the underwriting assessment, and in the process qualify people for mortgages they cannot afford. Hillary will require that taxes and insurance costs be included in the underwriting assessment so that prospective homeowners can properly determine whether they can afford a particular house. This requirement would apply to subprime mortgages, Alt-A mortgages, and non-traditional mortgages like interest-only, no-money-down, and payment option ARMs.

 

Help Reduce Foreclosures:

Establish a $1 billion fund to assist state programs that help at-risk borrowers avoid foreclosure. Hillary will establish a $1 billion fund to support state programs that help at-risk borrowers avoid foreclosure. Some state programs help borrowers make the single payment necessary to become current on their loans; others help borrowers renegotiate their loan terms, or simply provide financial counseling. These foreclosure mitigation efforts are more important than ever right now. Federal assistance for state programs that assist at-risk borrowers supplements Hillary’s call earlier in the year for “foreclosure timeout.” At-risk borrowers and lenders should be encouraged to work out alternatives to foreclosure.

Hillary will establish a $1 billion fund to support state programs that help at-risk borrowers avoid foreclosure. Some state programs help borrowers make the single payment necessary to become current on their loans; others help borrowers renegotiate their loan terms, or simply provide financial counseling. These foreclosure mitigation efforts are more important than ever right now. Federal assistance for state programs that assist at-risk borrowers supplements Hillary’s call earlier in the year for “foreclosure timeout.” At-risk borrowers and lenders should be encouraged to work out alternatives to foreclosure.Expand Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s Foreclosure Prevention Efforts. Hillary would expand the goals of Fannie and Freddie, the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that help stabilize the mortgage markets, to include helping a larger number of at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure. This would be consistent with Fannie’s and Freddie’s existing goals that promote home ownership. The GSEs already help mitigate foreclosures by enabling some borrowers to swap into less risky, lower-cost loans. Fannie also helps homeowners arrange payment forbearance, financial counseling, and loan restructurings. Hillary will expand those initiatives to make foreclosure mitigation a greater priority.

Expand Affordable Housing:

Establish a $1 billion fund to provide federal support to housing trust funds established by state, county, and municipal governments. The rise in home prices over recent years, coupled with stagnant wages, has meant that people are committing an increasing share of their salaries to mortgage payments. Between 2001 and 2004, for example, the number of households paying more than half of their incomes on housing increased by 1.9 million. The Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that housing is a “severe cost burden” for 15.6 million low- and middle-income households. Families facing such strains often forgo necessities. Other families simply forgo home ownership, or turn to high risk, alternative mortgage products. In order to encourage the development of affordable housing, Hillary will establish a $1 billion fund to support state, county, and municipal housing trust funds. Housing trust funds generally use dedicated funding sources to support initiatives like building subsidized rental housing and safety net housing, and they also support nonprofit housing developers. Hillary’s fund will supplement the funding states, counties, and municipalities have already dedicated to these initiatives.

The plan announced today supplements the plan Hillary announced earlier this year to address the problems in subprime mortgages. In that earlier announcement, Hillary called for expanding access to independent face-to-face counseling; restricting prepayment penalties for subprime mortgages; requiring “plain-talk, no-fine-print disclosure”; promoting “foreclosure timeout” in which at-risk borrowers and lenders work out alternatives to foreclosure; and strengthening the Federal Housing Administration so that it could provide more homebuyers with an alternative to the subprime market.

The plan announced today supplements the plan Hillary announced earlier this year to address the problems in subprime mortgages. In that earlier announcement, Hillary called for expanding access to independent face-to-face counseling; restricting prepayment penalties for subprime mortgages; requiring “plain-talk, no-fine-print disclosure”; promoting “foreclosure timeout” in which at-risk borrowers and lenders work out alternatives to foreclosure; and strengthening the Federal Housing Administration so that it could provide more homebuyers with an alternative to the subprime market.