In a happy-go-lucky style reminiscent of the Odd Couple's Oscar Madison, the Consumer Federation of America's Chris Lewis has quietly become a bur on the rear end of the mortgage industry, and that annoying itch will probably get more irritating in 1994.

With an unfettered, dressed-down style that has become a trademark at congressional hearings, Lewis, the mild-mannered, soft-spoken director of banking and housing policy at CFA, has had a loud voice on a number of mortgage industry-related issues.

And some of his arguments for certain rules and regulations have eerily translated into regulations and laws, like HUD's Respa escrow accounting rules.

Lewis' agenda in 1994 will likely start with a push for HUD to eliminate controlled business arrangements in Respa - one of the few issues the CFA and mortgage bankers agree on - but he won't make many friends with a push for fair lending rules of HUD and Congress.

That push will also be made by Lewis' counterpart at the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now, Deepak Bhargava. Bhargava said Acorn also plans to continue that push for CRA reform in 1994 - either through legislation or HUD regulations, and like Lewis, believes that HUD has enough latitude in its to-be-completed GSE Act regulations to create de facto laws that would force Fannie and Freddie sellers to comply.

Support for that belief grew out of a Home Mortgage Disclosure Act-based report released by Acorn which was immediately disputed by the MBA. Combined with a similar Ralph Nader study, it may have put enough light on the issue to actually help the once-thought-dead CRA reform bill of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., find new life. At the very least, both believe that armed with that information, HUD will now follow through with plans to implement those reforms as regs.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with a powerful lobby of their own, may knock heads with the CFA when it asks Congress to re-examine the GSEs housing goal targets as part of the upcoming housing bill. The subcommittees, he said, may want to examine the goals because there is a feeling on Capitol Hill that they may have been a little too easy.

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