New Mortgage Rules: Battle Looms in Congress

This week starts a showdown on mortgage-lending rules. How strong the protections will be for consumers will depend upon how successful lenders are at softening the rules proposed by Congress. Up for grabs are rules for: loan repayment; appraisals; how much skin lenders must have in the game; and suing a lender for fraud or poorly underwritten mortgages.

Most of these rules ultimately will affect the cost of mortgages and the types of mortgages pushed by lenders. One of the key rules that mortgage lenders want to soften is the rule requiring lenders to hold a 5 percent stake in loans that are bundled and sold with other loans. Those bundles are the mortgage-backed securities that imploded and caused the financial disaster.

By requiring lenders to hold a stake, Congress believes that they will be more cautious about their underwriting. When lenders had no skin in the game they were very careless with their underwriting, allowing "liar loans" and other exotic types of mortgages that are now the most likely to default.