Key Provisions of the Housing Bill Passed by Congress

July 26, 2008

The housing bill Congress is preparing to send President Bush would:

  • Give the Federal Housing Administration $300 billion in new lending authority and relax standards to provide affordable, fixed-rate mortgages to debt-ridden homeowners. Any losses would be covered by an affordable-housing fund financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that finance mortgages.
  • Allow the Treasury Department temporary authority to lend money to Fannie and Freddie or buy their stock to avert a collapse of one or both of the mortgage giants. The authority expires on Dec. 31, 2009.
  • Create a new regulator and tighten controls on Fannie and Freddie, including power for the regulator to approve pay packages for company executives. Create a new affordable-housing fund drawn from their profits. Permanently raise the limit on the loans they may buy -- set to revert to $417,000 by the end of the year -- to $625,000 in the highest-cost areas. Allow them to buy loans 15 percent higher than the median home price in certain cities.
  • Provide $3.9 billion in grants to the hardest-hit communities for buying and fixing up foreclosed property.
  • Modernize the FHA and allow it to back loans for riskier borrowers. Permanently increase the size of loans the agency may insure -- currently set to revert to $362,790 by the end of the year -- to $625,000 in the highest-cost areas. The agency could buy loans 15 percent higher than the median home price in certain cities.
  • Bar the FHA from insuring mortgages in which the borrower's down payment is paid by the seller, beginning on Oct. 1, 2008. Place a one-year moratorium to bar the agency from charging premiums based on the riskiness of the homeowner, until Oct. 1, 2009.
  • Provide $15 billion in housing tax breaks, including for low-income housing. Give a credit of up to $7,500 for first-time home buyers who purchase residences between April 9, 2008, and July 1, 2009. Allows people who don't itemize their taxes to claim a $500-$1,000 deduction on their 2008 property taxes.
  • Give states an additional $11 billion in tax-free municipal bond authority for low-interest loans to first-time home buyers, construction of low-income rental housing and refinancing subprime mortgages.
  • • Offer protection from investor lawsuits for mortgage holders that modify loans to borrowers who are in default or about to default.
  • • Provide $180 million for pre-foreclosure counseling and legal services for distressed borrowers.