WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve moved Tuesday to protect home buyers from dubious lending practices, its most sweeping response to a mortgage meltdown that has forced record numbers of people from their homes.
The Fed has been under attack for not doing more to stem the crisis as hundreds of thousands of people lost the roof over their head.
The proposed rules, endorsed by the Federal Reserve Board in a 5-0 vote, would crack down on a range of shady lending practices that have burned many of the nation's riskiest "subprime" borrowers — those with spotty credit or low incomes — who have been hardest hit by the housing and credit debacles. The rules also would curtail misleading ads for many types of mortgages and bolster financial disclosures to borrowers.
If ultimately adopted, the plan would apply to new loans made by thousands of lenders of all types, but would not cover loans already made.
The proposal would restrict lenders from penalizing risky borrowers who pay loans off early, require lenders to make sure these borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance and bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower's income. It also would prohibit lenders from engaging in a pattern or practice of lending without considering a borrower's ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home's value.
The plan disappointed both supporters and opponents of tougher home-lending regulations.
Mortgage lenders worried that the Fed plan was too tough and could crimp customers' choices. Consumer groups and Democrats in Congress complained that the proposal doesn't provide sufficiently strong safeguards for borrowers.
Consumer advocates wanted an outright ban on prepayment penalties.
Another disappointment to consumer groups: to make a case for a possible violation, the lender has to have engaged in a pattern of making loans without considering the borrowers' ability to repay. An individual incident would not be sufficient by itself.
Before taking effect, the public, industry and others can weigh in. The Fed will then vote again.