State legislative efforts to rein in predatory lending are gaining momentum.
Lawmakers in New York and North Carolina said they are optimistic they can pass bills to protect minority and elderly borrowers who are frequently the victims of loan schemes.
Lenders and brokers that target the vulnerable with high fees have been the focus of numerous investigations and lawsuits in recent months.
In New York, Assemblyman Scott Springer, a Democrat, and state Sen. Nick Spano, a Republican, are backing a bill to cap broker fees paid by borrowers or lenders at 3% of the loan amount. The bill's authors are confident that its bipartisan support will help usher it through the state Assembly.
"Examples of people scammed by mortgage brokers abound," said Mr. Springer, speaking at a June 6 press conference in New York City.
A North Carolina bill to restrict high-rate loans could be voted on as soon as next week, according to local news reports.
The bill would outlaw balloon payments on loans with more than five points in fees or interest rates that are eight percentage points over Treasury bill rates.
Consumer advocates said that they have seen more incidents of predatory lending as the growing asset-backed securities market fueled demand for home equity and nonconventional mortgage loans.
The "problem is enormous" in New York, said Pamela Sah, a staff lawyer at the Foreclosure Prevention Project for Seniors, South Brooklyn Legal Services.
"There's an influx of capital that happens when these loans are securitized on Wall Street," Ms. Sah said. The Foreclosure Prevention Project has received "hundreds" of complaints since its founding last year, she said.
Many of the complaints came from senior citizens whose homes were forced into foreclosure by home equity lenders, Ms. Sah said.
Empire State mortgage brokers said that the New York bill unfairly focuses on their business.
"It's not taking a full look at the industry," said Don Romano, a broker and former president of the New York Association of Mortgage Brokers.
"This is not just a broker issue," he said. "Bankers are just as guilty, if not more so."
The New York legislation is undercut by this year's decision by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that yield-spread premiums, or fees lenders pay brokers, are not necessarily illegal, said John Commons, legislative representative for the New York brokers association.
"As far as putting an end to predatory lending, I'm all for it," Mr. Commons said. But the bill goes too far by capping all broker fees at three points, he said.
Other brokers said the bill could be beneficial. "I applaud it," said Michael Moskowitz of Moskowitz & Co. in New York City. "It's going to clean up the business."