The Senate Wednesday evening approved by unanimous consent an amendment that will exempt "qualified mortgages" from the 5% risk retention provisions in the Wall Street Reform bill.

As approved, the language will ensure the 5% risk retention provision does not obstruct the securitization of the safest mortgages: loans that generally have 20% down payments or carry mortgage insurance.

The amendment, sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), instructs federal regulators to exempt low risk, fully documented loans from risk retention.

"We commend the Senate for the passage of the Landrieu/Hagan/Isakson amendment that exempts soundly underwritten, stable, consumer friendly mortgages from the risk retention requirements," said Glen Corso, managing director of the Community Mortgage Banking Project.

Isakson supported the qualified mortgage exemption after his effort to strike the risk retention provision from the bill failed.

"Risk retention is not the cure-all for good lending -- underwriting is," the Georgia lawmaker said. Landrieu noted the amendment will ensure that applicants with good credit who finance their home the "old fashioned way" will not face higher interest rates due to risk retention.

At the same time, the 5% risk retention provision will "eliminate the risk taking we saw in the home mortgage market between 2004 and 2007," Landrieu said.

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