Editorial: Mortgage rules help, but they’re not a full answer

Published Jan 8, 2014 at 12:01AM

New federal regulations governing mortgage lending go into effect Friday. The new rules are supposed to stop lenders from making loans that borrowers can’t pay.

Now, there’s a refreshing concept. It suggests just how sideways banks and lenders got before they helped us all blunder into the financial crisis.

Changes are necessary. The real question is a harder one: Are the new rules up to the job or are they going to make things worse?

Some Oregon bankers want to delay the rules because they say there have been too many changes. The Oregon Mortgage Bankers Association is not yet sure what it thinks of the rules.

There is some more encouraging news. Chip Reeves, the chief banking officer of Bank of the Cascades, does not have many reservations. He told The Bulletin’s Joe Ditzler that 97 percent of the loans granted by the Bank of the Cascades in the last year would have gone forward under the new rules.

His concern is for higher-end buyers and retirees. They may have a harder time qualifying.

Consumers with high debt will also have problems. The new rules that say qualified borrowers should not have more than 43 percent of their income going to debt — whether it be for a home loan, student debt or credit cards. Those people may still be able to get unqualified mortgages at higher costs.

The biggest problem with these new rules is that they only go after one piece of the causes of the financial crisis. These rules don’t fix risky loans by government-underwritten Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and low-income lending quotas by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The new rules may strike a better balance on loan requirements, but they’re not a complete fix.

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