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Senate Approves Condo Bill

FHA tax housing credit CPA Jerry JonesThe U.S. Senate has cleared the way for final approval of bill that would make it possible for more condo buyers to get financing through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan program.

Senators on Thursday unanimously passed H.R. 3700, also known as the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act. Current rules disqualify buyers from seeking FHA loans if less than 50 percent of the condominium units are owner-occupied. The bill would lower that requirement to a 35 percent owner-occupied ratio.

Capitol, DC2H.R. 3700 also would compel FHA’s overseer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to rewrite its rules to make it easier to re-certify a condo building’s eligibility through an easier process. FHA also would have to relax a hard rule against allowing the condominium associations to collect transfer fees when a condo is sold. The agency would allow transfer fees that are used to support community improvements. That policy is consistent with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s existing policy.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the House bill would boost FHA-guarantee lending by $8 billion between 2017 and 2021, as more condo buyers would be eligible for FHA financing.

Some housing groups, such at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), were specifically supporting Title III of the bill, which eases the restrictions on condominiums. Last month, NAR put out an action call to its one million members in a bid to get the bill moving in the Senate.

"Unfortunately, overly-burdensome restrictions on condo financing have for too long put that option out of reach for many creditworthy borrowers,” NAR President Tom Salomone said. "We look forward to seeing this legislation signed into law so homebuyers can start seeing some much-needed relief."

The bill, initially sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., also makes changes to the Section 8 voucher program for very low-income renters. It also would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to delegate to preferred lenders its approval authority for USDA loans, and allow the agency to charge a $50 fee to lenders per loan for using the automated underwriting system.

H.R. 3700 previously passed the House 427-0 in February, and now will be sent to President Barack Obama.

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