Thursday, September 03, 2009

FHA: The Next Bailout?

by Bill McBride on 9/03/2009 09:25:00 PM

John Burns Consulting sent out a note today titled: FHA Likely To Be The Next Shoe To Drop

"The FHA's aggressive lending programs have continued throughout the housing downturn, causing its market share of the mortgage industry to grow from 2% in 2005 to 23% today. ... The FHA insurance fund, however, is likely running dry. ...

While almost all of the experts believe that Congress would support the FHA if necessary (it's currently self-funded), we wonder if FHA officials will be under pressure to continue tightening their lending policies, which currently allow 96.5% mortgages to people with 600 FICO scores. ... Claims against the insurance fund have climbed, with roughly 7% of all FHA-insured loans now delinquent.
And from the WSJ: Loan Losses Spark Concern Over FHA
The Federal Housing Administration ... is in danger of seeing its reserves fall below the level demanded by Congress, according to government officials, in a development that could raise concerns about whether the agency needs a taxpayer bailout.
...
Resulting FHA losses are offset by premiums paid by borrowers. Federal law says the FHA must maintain, after expected losses, reserves equal to at least 2% of the loans insured by the agency. The ratio last year was around 3%, down from 6.4% in 2007.
...
Officials said as recently as May that they didn't expect to fall below the 2% limit, but home price declines have exceeded those used to model their expected losses. Given the pace of those declines, "there is no way they will make the 2%" if the current study follows last year's methodology, says [Thomas Lawler, an independent housing economist].
Based on the issues at the FHA, the end of the tax credit, and more supply coming on the market, Burns concluded that "housing could see another leg down later this year or early next year":
[W]atch the growing controversy regarding the FHA very carefully. The decisions made to allow the FHA to continue lending will have a huge impact on the housing market, particularly when so few entry-level buyers have a substantial down payment.