Update, 09/10 - HR 600 has been killed, for now, but the perpetrators of the SFDPA crime still roam free. Help call attention to the damage they have done to FHA, the market, and the taxpayer's purse by supporting and working with us. We have been bankrupted by Grant America's SLAPP suit against us (read: what is SLAPP?). Don't let them get away with fraud and legal abuse! We will continue to update this page with SFDPA and FHA crisis news.

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Background: SFDPA Is Illegal Money Laundering; Funds Should be Clawed-back, and Public & Private Officials Responsible Should Be Punished

This practice has been criticized or ruled against by the FHA, the GAO, the IRS, the FBI, and even US Congress itself, which outlawed it (for the time being) in the 2008 Housing Bill. Yet those who profit off the practice are trying to revive it.

So What is it??

The contentious practice is called "seller-funded downpayment assistance" (SFDPA). It is used to allow home buyers getting Federally-backed mortgages to bypass the need for a downpayment, supposedly for charitable reasons.

On the surface, it sounds benign, but it is actually fraud and money laundering inflicted on the Federal Housing Administration (that is, taxpayers), the housing market in general, and in a sense, even the buyers!

One of these companies, Global Direct Sales (which runs the "Grant America Program") has sued us in an attempt to stop us from revealing the existence of SFDPA and discussing it frankly. SO FAR A FEDERAL JUDGE HAS BLOCKED THEIR ATTEMPTS TO SILENCE US. (Read More about our battle here. Help us to fight this NUISANCE lawsuit which is a blatant attack on free speech!)

How SFDPA works:

Someone wants badly to sell a home. FHA has subsidized programs to help home buyers. The "problem" is that even with FHA's programs, a 3.5% down payment is still required (to show committment on the part of the buyer). Sellers realize if they could cut the downpayment to zero, they can make home buyers out of virtually anyone, and hence unload homes easier. Intermediaries like Realtors, as well as home builders, realize this would have the potential to increase their sales and transactions. Even some in Congress are in on the scheme, as they can appear to provide constituents with "free homes". After all, home ownership is a right, isn't it??

Enter SFDPA.

Third party, private companies have established programs that allow sellers to cover the downpayment FOR the borrowers, by promising to repay the money after the sale. While initially the downpayment is covered by the SFDPA company, the seller's money is then channeled through one or more entities which have a nonprofit or otherwise "exempt" status (like an Indian tribe) to repay them. The buyer has already presented the LENT money to the FHA as if it were their own, covering the required downpayment. Effectively, the seller has paid the buyer's downpayment, with the FHA being none the wiser.

The FHA has no reliable way of knowing which loans were made this way.

The GAO has found that transactions using SFDPA usually have been marked up by about 3%... in other words, USUALLY THE SFDPA DOWNPAYMENT MONEY COMES FROM SIMPLY MARKING UP THE HOME VALUE!!!

Why is this bad? Well,

  • it distorts home prices, and creates an incentive to keep exaggerating prices upwards endlessly
  • it means ALL the money for the purchase actually comes from the FHA (taxpayers), as it is rolled into the loan principle (in other words, the FHA nets NOTHING of real value)
  • since the markup in value is not "real", it means the buyer immediately has a zero or negative equity position, relative to true market prices

This is bad all around -- for everyone, that is, except the seller and the intermediaries INCLUDING THE SFDPA COMPANIES, WHO MAKE HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS IN "FEES" OFF EACH TRANSACTION. These companies have netted millions off of SFDPA, given the popularity of the programs with builders and Realtors (in other words, those who want to see homes sell, no matter what).

So why in the world is there a bill to get this practice started again? PERHAPS BECAUSE ITS CONGRESSIONAL SPONSORS LIKE THE DONATIONS THE SFDPA COMPANIES, REALTORS, AND BUILDERS KEEP SENDING IN, to help insure this particular loophole is kept open, and other "housing-friendly" giveaway legislation is put forth. The main sponsors are:

Does SFDPA Actually Help Homebuyers?

Some argue that SFDPA should be allowed because it helps people get into homes. But this makes no sense:

  • If no-money-down loans were a good idea, why wouldn't the FHA just provide 100% financing itself, and cut out the middle-men? [In fact, the FHA has tried and been blocked in the past... by the SFDPA companies!]
  • If the loans were actually charitable, wouldn't the money come from charities, instead of the home sellers? [The IRS agrees. Sellers contractually COMMIT to "donate" the money to cover the buyers' downpayment]
  • Think about what is going to happen to these loans in a market of falling prices, with greater job loss, forcing more people to sell & move [All of the performance statistics for these loans, as disturbing as they were, were from good times!]
  • Haven't we learned as a society that loans with "no skin in the game" are inherently unsound and a bad idea, as they simply lead to foreclosures? [Some people apparently havent -- or they don't care!]

Why Did The Bill Number Change?

Since the 110th Session of Congress ended with H.R. 6694 still pending, it had to be re-introduced for the 111th. It received the number H.R. 600. However, there is some "apparent" difference. H.R. 6694 specifically instituted fees to attempt to cover the risk of SFDPA lending. However:

  • The fees were essentially subprime "risk premiums," increasing as FICO scores went down. But these practices have already been reviled as "subprime" and discredited by the failure of FICO scores to provide for true risk mitigation.
  • Proponents argued that the FHA would "make money" on the program because of the risk premiums, but neglected to point out that the fees would be simply refunded after a history of on-time payments.
  • If the loans went into default, the FHA would likely lose money. Since home values start off inflated, it is unlikely the "risk premiums" would cover losses (and FHA is already operating at a loss for the first time in its 7-decade history).

The end result: SFDPA borrowers would be treated just like subprime borrowers, and the FHA (taxpayers) would still likely lose lots of money overall.

HR 600 does omit the section of HR 6694 that set up the premium structure. However, it still requires the FHA to set up a premium structure for borrowers with a FICO score under 620 and authorizes the FHA authorizes FHA to charge up to 3% upfront and 1.25% for annual premiums up to a fico of 679. So in other words, more of the details have been moved from the legislation itself to future FHA rules. We believe this is simply a tactic to deflect criticism -- especially of the use of FICO scores as risk-control criteria -- not to actually change the nature of the SFDPA legislation.

The law is substantially the same -- the renewed SFDPA would provide no-money-down, subprime-like loans at great peril to the FHA and taxpayer. It would continue to inflate home values, and likely lead a great many home buyers into foreclosure.


How you can help:

  • Write to and call the bill sponsors expressing your opinion, and to your congressmen to get them to apply pressure to stop the bill. Here is a letter you can customize to fax or mail in to Congress. Below are some basic talking points you can use in a letter or phone call:

    1. (MOST IMPORTANT) Seller-funded downpayment assistance doesn't even help those it claims to help: prospective homeowners. Because they generally start out "underwater", they are far more vulnerable to going into foreclosure when they need to move or experience a curtailment of income.
    2. SFDPA encourages inflated values to recoup downpayments. This distorts the housing market dangerously. Further, because there's no limit on how inflated the values can be, the scheme very much resembles the "straw buyer" scam where a fake or unsuspecting borrower is set up with an overpriced loan. In this case, however, the SFDPA companies, real estate agents, builders or banks make out with the ill-gotten profit, and the borrower is left to foreclose. Taxpayers cover the losses.
    3. SFDPA violates HUD regulations regarding contributions from those who have a financial interest in the sale. It is also against the wishes of the FHA, and has been criticized by the GAO, IRS, and FBI.
    4. FHA is now losing money and cannot afford accelerated losses from this program. More generally, taxpayers cannot afford to be dumping money into creating more unsound loans, rather than investing in a true recovery for the housing market.
    5. FICO-based "risk based pricing" is very subprime-like, and will not prevent losses in the situations of deep negative equity that SFDPA breeds.
    6. If it is desired to have a 100% financing option at FHA, why not have FHA offer the program itself, with real risk controls, and cut out the middleman? The reason is that the pro-SFDPA coalition prefers to profit off the old arrangement.
  • HR 600 is in front of the Financial Services Committee (click for list of members). Contact the committee and tell them to hear from Krista Railey on the bill. She can be contacted at her blog or through ML-Implode. Call Barney Frank (committee Chair) or Spencer Bachus (co-chair) and tell them "no more subprime practices at FHA", and let them know that the other side needs to be heard.
  • Help organize legal assistance
  • Donate to us in our legal fight to keep our free speech on this subject, defend free speech for all, and defend the pocketbooks of all taxpayers.
  • Spread the word -- put STOP "FHA SUBPRIME" buttons on your web page, and link to this page.

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