NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Reassessing FHA Risk

Diego Aragon, Andrew Caplin, Sumit Chopra, John V. Leahy, Yann LeCun, Marco Scoffier, Joseph Tracy

NBER Working Paper No. 15802
Issued in March 2010
NBER Program(s):   EFG   ME

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance has doubled over the past two years and is projected to redouble to $1.5 trillion over the next five. Despite clear signs of strain in the FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund, a recent actuarial review indicates that the FHA will not need any form of government support. We identify four risk factors that make such a funding request more likely; the review underestimates how many FHA borrowers are underwater and in economic distress; it uses measures of house values that lower loss estimates; it does not incorporate early-warning signals of future losses that are available from mortgage delinquency; and it ignores potential risks associated with recent down-payment assistant programs despite higher losses on previous programs of this type. We propose measures that could be taken to improve the predictive accuracy of FHA risk assessment.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15802

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