Obama administration pushing home loans for people with bad credit
The definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over while getting the same result. During the early 2000's, the government - and Wall Street - urged banks and mortgage companies to lower their standards and give creative loans to people with bad or marginal credit. The result? An epic meltdown that we are strill trying to recover from today.
In the last few years, Wall Street has once again begun to gamble recklessly in the mortgage security market. And now we find out that the administration is pushing home loans for those same marginal consumers.
The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.
President Obama's economic advisers and outside experts say the nation's much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.
In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs -- including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration -- that insure home loans against default.
Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.
Officials are also encouraging lenders to use more subjective judgment in determining whether to offer a loan and are seeking to make it easier for people who owe more than their properties are worth to refinance at today's low interest rates, among other steps.
Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to do more to make sure more Americans can enjoy the benefits of the housing recovery, but critics say encouraging banks to lend as broadly as the administration hopes will sow the seeds of another housing disaster and endanger taxpayer dollars.
"If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and would send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from," said Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former top executive at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
Banks and mortgage companies are extremely leery of lending to these customers because the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill criminalized the process. If a consumer defaults on a loan, they can go to the new enforcement agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and lodge a complaint against the lender that they were had - they didn't understand the terms of the loan. If found guilty, the offender can go to prison for a long time. This is a decided discouragement against giving loans to people who are likely to default.
So what's the rush? if consumers have "weak" credit as a result of the recession, let them build it back up by living within their means and paying their bills on time. And why should the taxpayer be on the hook for someone who has demonstrated in the past that they are irresponsible?
There are still millions of unsold housing units out there with the prospect that many of them will never be inhabited again. Some neighborhoods in Florida and Nevada still look like ghost towns. This is hardly the time to be pushing marginal credit risks into taking tens of thousands of dollars in new debt.