Mortgage bankers will be allowed to securitize Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) guaranteed loans without a risk retention requirement and certain GSE loans will be exempt as well, according to final provisions of the regulatory reform bill worked out late Thursday night.

As a technical matter, mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other issuers will be required to retain up to 5% of the credit risk if the loans are not eligible for a total exemption under a "qualified mortgage" test.

"I believe chances are very good that in the future almost every mortgage that Fannie and Freddie either buys or securitizes will be qualified mortgages under the risk retention provision," said Glen Corso, managing director of the Community Mortgage Banking Project.

Under the agreed final bill, federal banking agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Federal Housing Finance Agency will draft rules establishing underwriting standards and allowable product features for these very safe, fully documented "qualified" mortgages.

Qualified mortgages also have to meet a new and tougher "ability to repay" standard in the bill along with a 3% limit on points and fees and a separate 2% limit on bona fide discount points. Regulators have the flexibility to set risk retention percentage lower than 5% for residential mortgages that don't meet the qualified mortgage test.

Meanwhile, securitizations of mortgages guaranteed or insured by the FHA, VA, Rural Housing Service and other federal or state entities are totally exempt from risk retention.

"We commend the House and Senate Conferees for adoption of the qualified mortgage provision that exempts soundly underwritten, stable, consumer friendly mortgages from the risk retention requirements in the final version of the financial reform bill," Corso said.

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