WASHINGTON — The House passed a mortgage reform bill 300 to 114 on Thursday that aims to abolish lax lending by tightening underwriting standards and increasing liability throughout the mortgage chain.
The bill, sponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, and North Carolina Democrats Brad Miller and Mel Watt, won the support of 60 Republicans. It is unclear if the Senate has plans to take up the bill.
The House bill would require regulators to develop standards that ensure borrowers are able to repay their loans and receive a net tangible benefit in the case of refinancings. The bill would ban compensation for steering borrowers into higher cost loans and require the Federal Reserve Board and other regulators to come up with standards that force lenders to retain a portion of the loan's risk when selling it into the secondary market.
The bill also contains a little noticed provision that would require the Housing and Urban Development Department to pull a controversial rule due to go into effect at the beginning of next year that would update the mortgage settlement process under Real Estate and Settlement Procedures Act.
Revising RESPA is meant to ensure borrowers receive simple, easy to read, good-faith estimates of their mortgage terms, but HUD's rule came under fire for making the disclosures too complicated and conflicting with other disclosures.
"Getting the RESPA and [Truth in Lending Act] disclosures right is one of the best things we can do to help borrowers avoid predatory lending," said Francis Creighton, the chief lobbyist for the Mortgage Bankers Association. "The RESPA rule didn't harmonize all of the disclosures… That's why this provision is important. We think this is going to put real pressure on HUD to pull the rule back."