Reprinted from Smirking Chimp
Here we go again.
Last week, the country's biggest mortgage lenders scored a couple of key victories that will allow them to ease lending standards, crank out more toxic assets, and inflate another housing bubble. Here's what's going on.
On Monday, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Mel Watt, announced that Fannie and Freddie would slash the minimum down-payment requirement on mortgages from 5 percent to 3 percent while making loans more available to people with spotty credit. If this all sounds hauntingly familiar, it should. It was less than seven years ago that shoddy lending practices blew up the financial system precipitating the deepest slump since the Great Depression. Now Watt wants to repeat that catastrophe by pumping up another credit bubble. Here's the story from the Washington Post:
"When it comes to taking out a mortgage, two factors can stand in the way: the price of the mortgage...and the borrower's credit profile.
"On Monday, the head of the agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac outlined ... how he plans to make it easier for borrowers on both fronts. Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, did not give exact timing on the initiatives. But most of them are designed to encourage the industry to extend mortgages to a broader swath of borrowers."
Here's what Watt said about his plans in a speech at the Mortgage Bankers Association annual convention in Las Vegas:
"Saving enough money for a down payment is often cited as the toughest hurdle for first-time buyers in particular. Watt said that Fannie and Freddie are working to develop 'sensible and responsible' guidelines that will allow them to buy mortgages with down payments as low as 3 percent, instead of the 5 percent minimum that both institutions currently require."
Does Watt really want to "encourage the industry to extend mortgages to a broader swath of borrowers" or is this just another scam to enrich bankers at the expense of the public? It might be worth noting at this point that Watt's political history casts doubt on his real objectives. According to Open Secrets, among the Top 20 contributors to Watt's 2009-2010 campaign were Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., Bank of New York Mellon, American bankers Association, US Bancorp, and The National Association of Realtors. ("Top 20 Contributors, 2009-2010," Open Secrets)
Man oh man, this guy's got all of Wall Street rooting for him. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because he's faithfully executing his office and defending the public's interests or is it because he's a reliable stooge who brings home the bacon for fatcat bankers and their brood?
This is such a farce, isn't it? I mean, c'mon, do you really think that the big banks make political contributions out of the kindness of their hearts or because they want something in return? And do you really think that a guy who is supported by Goldman Sachs has your "best interests" in mind? Don't make me laugh.
The reason that Obama picked Watt was because he knew he could be trusted to do whatever Wall Street wanted, and that's precisely what he's doing. Smaller down payments and looser underwriting are just the beginning; teaser rates, balloon payments, and liars loans are bound to follow. In fact, there's a funny story about credit scores in the Washington Post that explains what's really going on behind the scenes. See if you can figure it out:
"Most housing advocates agree that a bigger bang for the buck would come from having lenders lower the unusually high credit scores that they're now demanding from borrowers.- Advertisement -
"After the housing market tanked, Fannie and Freddie forced the industry to buy back billions of dollars in loans. In a bid to protect themselves from further financial penalties, lenders reacted by imposing credit scores that exceed what Fannie and Freddie require. Housing experts say the push to hold lenders accountable for loose lending practices of the past steered the industry toward the highest-quality borrowers, undermining the mission of Fannie and Freddie to serve the broader population, including low- to moderate-income borrowers.
"Today, the average credit score on a loan backed by Fannie and Freddie is close to 745, versus about 710 in the early 2000s, according to Moody's Analytics. And lenders say they won't ease up until the government clarifies rules that dictate when Fannie and Freddie can take action against them." (Washington Post)
Can you see what's going on? The banks have been requiring higher credit scores than Fannie or Freddie.