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Residential Department: Q&A: Steve O’Connor, Mortgage Bankers Association: October 2008


Q&A: Steve O’Connor, Mortgage Bankers Association

Steve O’Connor, Senior Vice President of Governmennt Affairs, Mortgage Bankers Association

“Arguably the most important housing bill in a generation.” That’s how Steve O’Connor, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) senior vice president of government affairs, describes July’s Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. In light of the MBA’s annual conference this month in San Francisco, O’Connor tells us more about the organization’s thoughts on the new bill, how it feels about Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) reform proposals and what it plans for the coming year.

What is the MBA’s take on the passage of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008? We’re delighted we got the housing bill passed. That’s a big relief for us. There are things in that bill that we’ve been working on for over a decade.

So now what? There will be technical corrections to the bill. These are just, in some cases, drafting errors [or] inadvertent errors. There will be legislation introduced at some point to fix little glitches in the bill. So we’re sifting through the bill and working with other stakeholders to identify those fixes.

How will the housing bill benefit the market? We saw the housing crisis as giving rise to three priorities on the public-policy front: stabilizing the market, assisting borrowers and preventing the situation from occurring again. There are a number of provisions in the housing bill that will help do that.

The higher loan limits will help provide liquidity and help stabilize the market. The Hope for Homeowners [section] has a provision dealing with mortgage-revenue bonds allocated to refinance [non]prime borrowers. [And] the registry for loan originators will hopefully provide additional oversight for that segment of the industry.

Some industry groups are calling for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to drop its proposed RESPA changes. How does the MBA feel about HUD’s proposed RESPA reform? You can add our name to the voices that are calling on HUD to withdraw the rule. What we’d like [HUD] to do is step back and work with the Federal Reserve to coordinate and synchronize the disclosure efforts that HUD is contemplating with the efforts that the Fed is looking at with regard to Truth in Lending Act disclosures.

We’re strongly supportive of RESPA reform. The key is to get it right.

What are some of the MBA’s goals for 2009? We want to get the elements of the housing bill successfully implemented. We want to continue to work with other stakeholders to assist borrowers. We want to continue to ramp up our capacity and outreach to help borrowers.

Last but certainly not least, we want to make sure that we avoid any ill-advised legislation. Exhibit A in that category would be the bankruptcy “cramdown” reforms [via House Resolution No. 3609] that were initiated earlier in the year and that were not implemented. They would have had a great adverse impact on the market.


Ivanna C. Sukkar was an editor at Scotsman Guide. For questions on this article, call (800) 297-6061 or e-mail

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