A bill engineered to improve access to credit and qualified mortgages for low and moderate income borrowers, while also protecting consumers from bad loans, unanimously passed Monday in the U.S. House.

The Mortgage Choice Act clarifies the qualified mortgage definition in the Dodd-Frank Act. It modifies the calculation of certain "points and fees" under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's qualified mortgage rule.

Introduced by Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich, and Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., it excludes insurance and taxes held in escrow and fees paid to affiliated companies from the points and fees tally, which is limited by the rule to 3% of the mortgage cost. 

"This legislation is narrowly focused to promote access to affordable mortgage credit without overturning the important consumer protections and sound underwriting required under Dodd-Frank's 'ability to repay' provisions," Huizenga said during a floor speech before the vote.

Huizenga said that the common sense changes will promote access to affordable mortgage credit for moderate income famlies and will ensure that safer, properly underwritten mortgages will pass the QM test.

But there are critics, including the Center for Responsible Lending, which argues the bill threatens the safety of home loans and leaves consumers vulnerable to excessive fees.

"These fees would upset the careful balance struck by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in creating the new mortgage rules designed to protect consumers from the irresponsible lending practices that contributed to the recent housing crisis," said Kenneth W. Edwards, vice president of Federal Affairs at the Center for Responsible Lending.

"It's deeply concerning how quickly we forget the devastating impact that abusive lending practices had on the housing market and the larger economy. Countless houses lost, innumerable families affected - and after a long, hard-fought battle to pass the necessary reforms to protect our homes, we find ourselves here again," he added.

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