Provisions of the housing bill that President Bush signed into law Wednesday:
• Gives the Federal Housing Administration $300 billion in new lending authority and relaxes standards to provide affordable, fixed-rate mortgages to an estimated 400,000 debt-ridden homeowners. Any losses will be covered by an affordable housing fund financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that finance mortgages.
• Allows the Treasury Department temporary authority to lend money to Fannie and Freddie or buy their stock to avert a collapse of one or both of the mortgage giants. The authority expires on Dec. 31, 2009.
• Creates a new regulator and tighten controls on Fannie and Freddie, including power for the regulator to approve pay packages for company executives. Creates a new affordable housing fund drawn from their profits. Permanently raises the limit on the loans they may buy to $625,000 in the highest-cost areas. Allows them to buy loans 15 percent higher than the median home price in certain cities.
• Provides $3.9 billion in grants to the hardest-hit communities for buying and fixing up foreclosed property.
• Modernizes the FHA and allows it to back loans for riskier borrowers. Permanently increases the size of loans the agency may insure to $625,000 in the highest-cost areas. The agency can insure loans 15 percent higher than the median home price in certain cities.
• Prohibits the FHA from insuring mortgages in which the borrower's down payment is paid by the seller, beginning on Oct. 1, 2008. Places a one-year moratorium prohibiting the agency from charging premiums based on the riskiness of the homeowner, until Oct. 1, 2009.
• Provides $15 billion in housing tax breaks, including for low-income housing. Gives a credit of up to $7,500 for first-time home buyers who purchase residences between April 9, 2008, and July 1, 2009. Allows people who don't itemize their taxes to claim a $500-$1,000 deduction on their 2008 property taxes.
• Gives states an additional $11 billion in tax-free municipal bond authority for low-interest loans to first-time home buyers, construction of low-income rental housing and refinancing subprime mortgages.
• Offers protection from investor lawsuits for mortgage holders that modify loans to borrowers who are in default or about to default.
• Provides $180 million for pre-foreclosure counseling and legal services for distressed borrowers.
Information provided by:
Walter "Scotty" Scott
Senior Loan Officer
WR Starkey Mortgage, LLP