The Obama administration‘s proposal for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan limits to reset to lower levels in October will have only a small impact on the agency’s current market share, a new study suggests. According to researchers at George Washington University (GW), larger reductions may be necessary to return the FHA to its traditional role as a lender to first-time and low- to moderate-income borrowers.
The report, titled “FHA Assessment Report: The Role and Reform of the Federal Housing Administration in a Recovering U.S. Housing Market,” concludes that the FHA still could serve 95% of its historic targeted market even if the maximum FHA loan limits were reduced by nearly 50%. To serve its target population, the report concludes that the FHA only needs a market share of somewhere between 9% and 15% of total mortgage originations. Currently estimates by the administration show that nearly one-third of new originations have FHA backing.
“FHA’s expansion played a major role in keeping the housing market afloat during the economic collapse of 2008 and 2009,” says Robert Van Order, co-author of the report. “However, we now are left with large loan limits that were set when home prices were at the top of the bubble. They don’t reflect current market conditions and are unlikely to assist the FHA in reaching its historical constituencies – first-time, minority and low-income home buyers.”
As part of its broader proposals to reshape the housing finance industry, the Obama administration wants to reduce the FHA’s high-end loan limit of $729,750 to $629,500. The GW report says an FHA limit of $350,000 in the high-cost markets and a limit of $200,000 in the lowest-cost markets is sufficient to satisfy more than 95% of the FHA’s target population.
The report also finds that the administration’s proposed reductions in loan limits would affect only 3% of loans endorsed last year.
“We find that FHA’s current market share exceeds what is needed to serve these markets,” says Van Order. “In the wake of significant declines in home prices, we believe the FHA could reduce its loan limits by approximately 50 percent and still almost entirely satisfy its target market. That would reduce its currently large market share, which is difficult for FHA to manage.”
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