House Passes Bill To Modernize Federal Housing Administration

July 26, 2006

Legislation Will Increase Access to FHA for Potential Homebuyers

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed "The Expanding American Homeownership Act,” which will increase homeownership opportunities for millions of Americans by modernizing the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and returning it to its traditional role as an important financing option in today’s housing market.

"I applaud the House for passing this far-reaching legislation and express appreciation for the leadership provided by rpresentatives Bob Ney, Maxine Waters, Gary Miller, and Patrick Tiberi,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson.  "I expect the Senate to take similar action thanks to the efforts of Senator Jim Talent and the support of Senators Mel Martinez, Johnny Isakson, and Saxby Chambliss.”

"When FHA was formed in 1934, it was an historic event that made homeownership possible for people who had nowhere else to turn,” said Assistant Secretary for Housing-Federal Housing Commissioner Brian D. Montgomery.  "We are now closer to another landmark - a modernized, flexible FHA that can respond to the needs of today’s low and moderate-income homebuyers who need a helping hand.” 

The Expanding American Homeownership Act (H.R. 5121) will enable FHA to reach more prospective borrowers and allow millions more low- and moderate-income families to achieve the American dream of homeownership.  Many of these borrowers currently have little choice but to pay subprime rates because FHA lacks the ability to offer an affordable financing option.

The Expanding American Homeownership Act will:

1) Eliminate the current statutory three percent minimum down payment, reducing a significant barrier to homeownership. FHA’s existing down payment requirement does not meet the demands of today’s marketplace, where most first-time homebuyers put down two percent or less. The "new” FHA would offer a variety of down payment options.

2) Create a new, risk-based insurance premium structure for FHA that would match the premium amount with the credit profile of the borrower.  It would replace the current structure, in which there is standard premium amount for all borrowers, while still protecting the soundness of its Insurance Fund.  FHA would have the flexibility to charge a lower premium for low-risk borrowers, and to charge higher-risk borrowers a slightly higher premium.

3) Increase and simplify FHA’s loan limits. FHA’s loan limit in high-cost areas would rise from 87 to 100 percent of the GSE conforming loan limit and in lower-cost areas from 48 to 65 percent of the conforming loan limit.  This change is crucial in today’s housing market.  In many areas of the country, the existing FHA limits are lower than the cost of new construction, eliminating FHA financing as an option for buyers of new homes in those markets. FHA has simply been priced out of the market in other areas, such as California, where FHA insured only about 5,000 home mortgages in all of 2005, down 95 percent from 109,000 in 2000.

Source: HUD

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