Federal Housing Administration Commissioner David Stevens on Tuesday stressed the need for the mortgage industry to be more accountable for its past transgressions and to actively engage the next generation of homeowners.
"It's a critical moment," he said, speaking to a crowd of about 3,000 industry participants gathered at the Mortgage Bankers Association's annual convention in Atlanta. "There's way too much at stake. We can sit here and watch the news. We can sit here and promote the woes … of families trapped in states where significant lines of the homes are underwater," or the industry can take some of the "painful" steps required to bring the housing market back.
The robo-signing scandal of the past few weeks, in which the validity of foreclosure documents has been called into question, has undoubtedly been another setback for the industry, further tarnishing its reputation with the next generation of homebuyers who have watched the housing crisis unfold with "shock and awe," Stevens said.
"They may be concerned; they may be resistant about entering the market, particularly if they don't trust all the participants," he said. The industry needs to adopt a universal voice, he said, to say, " 'We're not going to allow this stuff to happen.' … Scaring them is something we need to overcome."
Stevens also warned of the potential problems that arise when access to homeownership is restricted to only "top tier" borrowers.
He stressed the importance of responsible underwriting, saying the industry needs to realize that "some people shouldn't own a home going forward."
At the same time, though, mortgage bankers should understand that the current refinance boom is fleeting and that the focus needs to be on helping more homeowners make purchases.
"When interest rates rise that market will be gone," he said of refinances. "So our ability to access homeownership in a meaningful way and to treat every homeowner, potential homeowner, as though they were our family member, our mother, our brother, our sister, if we looked at them all that way, I think we would treat them with a lot more care."