A House Financial Services subcommittee hearing Wednesday will explore whether recent changes in loan-origination rules will hurt consumers' chances of getting a mortgage.
"While the financial crisis led to numerous federal state laws that changed the mortgage origination process, no overall review or cost-benefit analysis has been conducted," said Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., in a press release.
The hearing before the subcommittee on insurance, housing and community opportunity will include witnesses from the Federal Reserve Board, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), among others.
The industry and Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed fears, for example, about the potential of new rules from the consumer bureau — created under the Dodd-Frank Act — to limit credit.
"With the addition of a massive new financial regulator under the Dodd-Frank bill, the CFPB, the potential for market-distorting and costly rules remains a top concern, and our aim is to ensure that federal action protects consumers, promotes competition, and allows small businesses to grow and create jobs," said Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., who chairs the subcommittee.
"Three years ago they didn't have the manpower and the capital to mark to market the property," he says. "They couldn't take the hit on the balance sheet of foreclosing, restructuring the note or selling it."
Matt Anderson, managing director of Trepp, argues that if it weren't for current low interest rates, many underwater borrowers would be sinking.
"It is a bit of a race against time, where you want the economic fundamentals and real estate fundamentals to improve," he says. "But more importantly, if interest rates start to increase, underwater borrowers with very low debt rates would see their payments increase."
Values are recovering. According to Real Capital Analytics, commercial properties changed hands during the first quarter at an average yield of 7.2%. That's cheaper than the 6.5% levels seen at the top of the market in 2007, but richer than in the fourth quarter of 2009, when properties were priced to yield 8.1%.
In cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Boston, "the infill locations have become very desirable properties where there has been substantial improvement in where the rents are," says John Pelusi, executive managing director and managing member of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler L.P., a commercial mortgage banking firm. "And if you look at the multifamily sector here in the United States, as a general statement, you have very little new construction here in the U.S. and you have positive demographics and you are not building anything."
Banks have not suffered as badly from CRE loans as from other types of loans in the past few quarters. Even at the peak of commercial property delinquencies in 2010, the rate was lower than during the savings and loan crisis in the early 1990s.