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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) offered a strong dose of congratulatory language on yesterday’s passage of two housing-related bills, while opponents to the legislation insisted they opened the door to a new era of predatory lending practices.
The bills included HR 650, the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act, which sought to amend the Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA) by enabling a higher level of consumer access to affordable manufactured housing by updating the federal definition of a “high-cost mortgage.” The bill, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), passed by a 263-162 vote.
Also included was HR 685, the Mortgage Choice Act, which addressed the calculation of points and fees in mortgage transactions with the goal of widening the classification of home loans that could meet qualified mortgage (QM) requirements. HR 685, sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), passed by a 286-140 vote.
Both bills passed in votes that ran mostly along party lines—only 22 out of Democrats supported HR 650 and 45 Democrats supported HR 685, while only one Republican voted against both bills. In response to the passage of the bills, Rep. Boehner praised the legislation as “bipartisan bills” and insisted they would benefit homeowners.
“Affordable housing is vital for low and middle income families and workers, but far too often, Washington’s regulatory overreach and red tape gets in the way of their American dream,” said Rep. Boehner. “By increasing access and promoting choice for consumers, this legislation will help more hardworking Americans get ahead and achieve financial independence.”
The bills were supported by financial services and housing industry trade groups, but faced opposition from advocacy groups including the Center for American Progress and the Center for Responsible Lending. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national civil and human rights organizations, tried to position the debate in terms of income and racial inequality, using an open letter to legislators to insist that these bills “would erode important safeguards against the sorts of predatory lending practices that led to the 2008 economic crisis, and they would harm low-income and minority homeowners who are still trying to get back on their feet.”
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, also voiced concern in a written statement, arguing that the bills would “ultimately bring back higher costs for borrowers, facilitate the kind of steering that forced so many into expensive mortgages that end in foreclosure, and undermine vital consumer protections enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.”