More Lawmakers Fight 20% Down Payment

Jun 21, 2011 by

A proposed 20 percent down payment rule for qualified residential mortgages is too high, argues a growing group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

Late last week, about 240 lawmakers in the House sent a second letter to federal regulators urging them to lower the down payment rule on QRMs. Last month, about 150 lawmakers had signed a letter urging the same.

“The resultant reduction in demand for housing, due to an overly burdensome government dictate, would only add to the challenges the housing market faces, and could threaten a full-fledged economic recovery from years to come,” the most recent letter reads.

The 20 percent down payment rule arises from an effort of several federal agencies that have been trying to urge more responsible lending and borrowing. The agencies created a proposed risk-retention regulation under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, which requires lenders that securitize mortgage loans to retain 5 percent of the credit risk unless the mortgage is considered a safe mortgage or a “qualified residential mortgage.” (FHA and VA mortgages would be exempt.)

QRMs would be exempt from the 5 percent credit requirement but would have to meet certain guidelines, such as the proposed 20 percent down payment requirement. Borrowers with less than 20 percent down could then be forced to pay higher fees and interest rates.

A 20 percent down payment requirement would cause more first-time buyers to flee from the already fragile housing market, analysts at Capital Economics say.

The National Association of REALTORS® also has been an outspoken critic of the proposal, saying that a 20 percent down payment requirement would jeopardize a housing recovery.