You don’t have to listen very long before you’ll hear that our nationwide mortgage crisis was caused by “predatory lending practices.” But while houses-for-all maniacs advocates like Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial certainly deserve their share of the blame, we shouldn’t forget the root causes of these practices.
One recent article about the foreclosure crisis is a good example of “predatory lending” talk:
Nationwide, the foreclosure crisis has resulted to literally millions of homeowners in mortgage default. After much investigation, it was found out that many of the homeowners became victims of mortgage servicers and lenders who engaged in predatory lending practices.
These aggressive lending practices were quite rampant during the last housing boom. There were lenders who falsified information on the borrower’s application, allowing them to get approved for loans they could not afford. On the other hand, there were those that offered hybrid mortgage products along with incentives that include interest only payment, no down payment and adjustable rates.
Mozilo, who we’ll let stand in for the mortgage industry here, was a weird type of predator, however. Rather than lurking around and secretly capturing unsuspecting homebuyers with unwieldy loans, he was perfectly upfront about what he was doing. In June of 2004 (which was dubbed “Home Ownership Month”), Mozilo explained his theory that “closing the homeownership gap is not just the right thing to do; it’s the foundation of future business growth.”
And he knew exactly how to close that gap: the loans we now call predatory.
“Eliminating the down-payment barrier is critical to helping the underserved buy homes. And our industry is making strides to break down this barrier and level the playing field. Recent loan program innovations include zero-down-payment loans and loans requiring cash contributions of the lesser of $500 or 1 per cent of a home’s sales price. For qualified borrowers–especially those among the African-American, Asian and Hispanic emerging-markets population segments–these programs are having a positive impact and enabling people to realise their dreams. But we can do more to create products to fit specific needs.”
Once you get over your shock and horror over this obviously racist attempt to trap minority buyers in unaffordable homes, you might want to check out the origins of Mozilo’s nefarious plans. To help you out, we’ll print in full a government document that explains the origins of this kind of predation:
As part of President Bush’s ongoing effort to help American families achieve the dream of homeownership, Federal Housing Commissioner John C. Weicher today announced that HUD is proposing to offer a “zero down payment” mortgage, the most significant initiative by the Federal Housing Administration in over a decade. This action would help remove the greatest barrier facing first-time homebuyers – the lack of funds for a down payment on a mortgage.
Speaking at the National Association of Home Builders’ annual convention, Commissioner Weicher indicated that the proposal, part of HUD’s Fiscal Year 2005 budget request, would eliminate the statutory requirement of a minimum three per cent down payment for FHA-insured single-family mortgages for first-time homebuyers.
“Offering FHA mortgages with no down payment will unlock the door to homeownership for hundreds of thousands of American families, particularly minorities,” said HUD’s Acting Secretary Alphonso Jackson. “President Bush has pledged to create 5.5 million new minority homeowners this decade, and this historic initiative will help meet this goal.”
Preliminary projections indicate that the new FHA mortgage product would generate about 150,000 homebuyers in the first year alone.
“This initiative would not only address a major hurdle to homeownership and allow many renters to afford their own home, it would help these families build wealth and become true stakeholders in their communities,” said Commissioner Weicher. “In addition, it would help spur the production of new housing in this country.”
For those that choose to participate in the Zero Down Payment program, HUD would charge a modestly higher insurance premium, which would be phased down over several years, and would also require families to undergo pre-purchase housing counseling.
HUD is the nation’s housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation’s fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.
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