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Tighter FHA Guidelines Ahead

Senator endorses FHA acting commissioner

Dec. 18, 2012

By Mortgage Daily staff


The person in charge of the Federal Housing Administration has committed to making substantial reforms to the government mortgage program -- a commitment that gained her the support of a Republican senator. Reverse mortgage lending will take a big hit from the changes.

FHA Acting Commissioner Carol J. Galante made the commitments in a letter Tuesday to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Galante was nominated in October 2011 to become Federal Housing Commissioner following the March 2011 departure of former commissioner David H. Stevens who went on to run the Mortgage Bankers Association.

In her letter, Galante said that borrowers with credit scores less than 620 will be limited to a 43 percent total debt-to-income ratio. Manual underwriting and documented compensating factors, such as higher down payments, will be required when the ratio exceeds 43 percent. The change is expected to cut claim rates by 20 percent.

FHA plans to eliminate standard, fixed-rate home-equity conversion mortgages. These loans account for a large majority of reverse mortgages insured by FHA.

Galante said that FHA market share will be reduced by cutting LTV ratios to 95 percent on loans greater than $625,000. Mortgage insurance premiums have already been raised on these loans.

One final step Galante mentioned was to more closely scrutinize borrowers with prior foreclosures.

FHA's capital reserve is at a negative $16.3 billion, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Annual Report to Congress Fiscal Year 2012 Financial Status FHA Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund.

"I've been working closely with Secretary Donovan and Acting Commissioner Galante over the past few weeks on ways we can put FHA on sound financial footing," Corker said in a statement. "While this is only a first step, I am encouraged that Acting Commissioner Galante has committed to structural reforms that we both believe put FHA in a much stronger position.

"Given the reforms she is committed to, I believe that having an accountable commissioner with her resolve and expertise will be in the best interest of the taxpayer."


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