According to analysts, a handful of private investment firms have started making home loans to borrowers who fail to meet banks’ requirements, which got tighter post-crash and have largely stayed that way. And for now they are holding them on their books, which is novel. At least two, Athas Capital Group, of California, and New Penn Financial, which is owned by Shellpoint Partners, of New York, are also making jumbo loans, or loans in most parts of the country that exceed $417,000, as the federal government appears to be scaling its support of that market.
The good news is that we’re not going full-on crazy just yet:
The firms say this is far from the subprime lending of the go-go years. While they may embrace slightly riskier borrowers, they require higher down payments, around 40% on average at Athas Capital, compared with roughly 10% for a bank loan, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH Associates. And while they are willing to be flexible with income documentation, accepting a workplace pay stub or a series of bank statements in lieu of tax-return documents, they still require documentation as proof a borrower can repay the loan. This opens the door to otherwise qualified borrowers who have been foreclosed on, for example, or who may be self-employed or recently unemployed but are now back to work, says Chip Cummings, president of Northwind Financial, a consultant to mortgage lenders.
So far, so good. But if this works out, then presumably we’ll push ever-further into new frontiers. The problem is that as long as we have a tax code that’s heavily biased in favor of people taking out large loans to finance their own housing, then expanding the number of people eligible for such loans is an important kind of egalitarian measure. The right way to address this would be to curb the tax bias, but instead, everything in our politics tends to push toward expanding credit.