New rules aim to curb risky mortgages


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Federal regulators for the first time are laying out rules aimed at ensuring that mortgage borrowers can afford to repay the loans they take out.

The rules unveiled Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau impose a range of obligations and restrictions on lenders, including bans on the risky “interest-only” and “no documentation” loans that helped inflate the housing bubble.

Lenders will be required to verify and inspect borrowers’ financial records. The rules discourage them from saddling borrowers with total debt payments totaling more than 43 percent of the person’s annual income. That includes existing debts such as credit cards and student loans.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray, in remarks prepared for an event Thursday, called the rules “the true essence of ‘responsible lending.”’

Cordray noted that in years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, consumers easily could obtain mortgages that they could not afford to repay. In contrast, in subsequent years banks tightened lending so much that few could qualify for a home loan.

The new rules seek out a middle ground by protecting consumers from bad loans while giving banks the legal assurances they need to increase lending, he said.

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