NAHB: Homebuilders Want FHA Loan Limits Reinstated

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was in the news Tuesday, Nov. 15. 

First, Bob Nielsen, a Reno, NV home builder and chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) called on Congress to pass legislation to reinstate the higher loan limits for the Federal Housing Administration that expired on Sept. 30.

Second, a report from the FHA's independent auditor (link: suggested that the FHA may need a bailout if the housing industry doesn't improve from the continuing meltdown and foreclosure crisis that began in 2008.

The auditor said that chances are nearly 50 percent that the FHA -- formed in 1934 to insure private lenders against homeowner default -- will need to join Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the bailout line. The agency's problems are a result of the foreclosure crisis; in the past three years, the FHA has paid $37 billion in insurance claims. The agency has only $2.6 billion in cash reserves, according to the report, down from $4.7 billion last year.

Nielsen said that "Legislation pending in the House and Senate will restore the higher mortgage loan limits for the Federal Housing Administration and is essential to help stabilize the nation's housing financial markets.

"The FHA program is fully self-supporting, and a great example of a public-private partnership with lending institutions. Restoring the loan limits will provide millions of potential consumers in markets throughout the nation access to safe, affordable mortgage financing.

"To help mend the struggling housing market, stabilize home values, provide constancy while private investors re-enter the market and ensure that millions of creditworthy home borrowers can access the best possible mortgage rates, Congress must support this bill to help American families and get the lackluster economy moving forward."

From the FHA audit report: "As was the case last year, the new actuarial study shows that FHA is expected to sustain significant losses from loans insured prior to 2009, and thus its capital reserve remains below the congressionally mandated threshold of two percent of total insurance-in-force."

Putting an optimistic turn of phrase that doesn't seem justified by continuing declines in home prices, the report added: "However, the actuaries’ report concludes that, barring a further significant downturn in home prices, the MMI Fund will start to rebuild capital in 2012, and return to a level of two percent by 2014 – outpacing last year’s prediction.  The actions taken by this Administration have put FHA into a position where the actuaries expect rapid growth in capital once the housing market begins a broad-based recovery."
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