WASHINGTON — The Senate approved a bill Thursday by unanimous consent that includes major reforms to the Federal Housing Administration condominium loan program and the Rural Housing Service loan program.
The bill, which has already cleared the House, would streamline the FHA's certification requirements for condo projects, allow more commercial space in agency-approved condo buildings and relax current owner-occupancy requirements.
The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization bill, originally sponsored by Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., would also authorize the Agriculture Department to use direct endorsement lenders to approve RHS-guaranteed loans.
Currently, RHS lenders send loan documents to Washington for approval.
"I am incredibly pleased the Senate came together and passed this comprehensive legislation which represents real reforms to our nation's housing programs and policies," Luetkemeyer said Friday.
The bill now goes to the President Obama's desk for his signature.
"Now that both chambers have unanimously supported this legislation, it is my hope that the president will make this bill a law without delay," Luetkemeyer said. "It is time to take the first meaningful step to changing our nation's housing policies."
The House passed the bill in February by a 420-0 vote.
The National Association of Realtors has been urging Congress to modernize the RHS program for several years, as well as pushing for reforms in the FHA condo program.
"Condominiums often represent an affordable option that's just right for first-time and low-to-moderate-income homebuyers," said Tom Salomone, the president of the Realtor group.
"Unfortunately, overly burdensome restrictions on condo financing have for too long put that option out of reach for many creditworthy borrowers," Salomone said. "This legislation meets those restrictions head on, putting the dream of homeownership back in reach for more Americans."
The Department of Housing and Urban Development already has a rulemaking underway to improve access to FHA-insured condominium loans. In November, the agency made temporary changes to ease its owner-occupancy and recertification requirements.