New Mortgage Rule Aims to Protect Borrowers
January 10, 2013
The U.S. government states that a new federal rule on home lending, effective in 2014, will give consumers greater protection against risky mortgages. However, it is not immediately expected to make financing easier to obtain. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the newly adopted rule lays out what lenders must do to ensure that borrowers can afford their mortgages. One of its main goals is to protect against the kind of underwriting that triggered the housing bust, when many borrowers took on risky loans they did not understand and had little to no hope of repaying. CFPB director Richard Cordray describes the new "common sense" rule as one that "ensures responsible borrowers get responsible loans." Consumer groups, though, complain that it affords lenders too much protection and fails to include adequate provisions to safeguard low-income borrowers. Alys Cohen of the National Consumer Law Center laments that it "invites abusive lending." Under the new rule, a qualified mortgage cannot contain such "risky" features as terms that exceed 30 years or negative-amortization payments where the principal amount increases. In addition, qualified mortgages cannot carry fees and points in excess of 3 percent of the loan; and they cannot be issued to borrowers who, once the mortgage is factored in, carry debt-to-income ratios above 43 percent. Observers say the guidelines will make it tougher for certain borrowers -- including wealthier buyers seeking interest-only financing and subprime buyers with poor credit -- to get loans.
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