Is This Supposed to be Helpful Legislation? (A bad example from Illinois)


A reader named Terri at Educating the Wheelers sent me an email giving me a heads up on the antics of the state of Illinois. here is the link. Here is the original article at blackprof. The link to the original source is broken, but here is the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, here is the full text of HB4050, their new state law, here is a synopsis, among other things, and here are enforcement regulations.

Critical sections:

Based on information submitted to the Department by the originator, requires the Department to make a determination as to whether credit counseling is recommended to the borrower. Requires the Department to notify each borrower for which it recommends counseling of all HUD-certified counseling agencies located within the State and direct the borrower to interview with a counselor associated with one of those agencies. Requires the borrower to select an agency from the notice and to interview with a counselor associated with that agency within 10 days after receipt of the notice. Prohibits the borrower from waiving the recommended credit counseling. Requires the title insurance company or closing agent to record simultaneously with the mortgage a certificate of its compliance with database reporting requirements and, if it fails to do so, provides that the mortgage is not recordable


Changes the definition of "pilot program area" to all areas designated by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation because of high foreclosure rates due to predatory lending practices. Deletes a requirement that a broker or originator provide each borrower with a notice disclosing the names of at least 3 lenders and comparing the rates and terms of those lenders (emphasis mine). Provides that nothing in the predatory lending database provisions is intended to prevent a borrower from making his or her own decision as to whether to proceed with a transaction.

blackprof's take:

Nevertheless, Tuesday was a key moment in African-American History. On Tuesday, in addition to Mrs. King's passing and Justice Alito's elevation, the State of Illinois enacted a law that requires all mortgage applications within nine Chicago zip codes to undergo a process of review by the state's Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The department's review process determines whether mortgage applicants in these neighborhoods must undergo compulsory credit counseling. If they must, then the mortgage lender must pay the cost of the counseling.

Anyone familiar with Chicago geography and demography knows these nine zip codes. They are all neighborhoods on the South and Southwest side of Chicago. They are predominantly African-American neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are some of the most impoverished in the City of Chicago, and indeed, the nation. On Tuesday, they suddenly became much poorer.

Although the legislators responsible for the new law were motivated by good intentions, they failed to consider the inevitable consequences of their bill. They wanted to protect poor homeowners in certain neighborhoods from high interest rates and predatory lending practices. The new law, however, necessarily increases the costs, time and uncertainty associated with mortgage applications in these black neighborhoods. The cost of credit counseling will be born by and charged to mortgage applicants. This, in turn, will necessarily decrease the price that new home-buyers can afford to pay for homes in these neighborhoods. If they can choose to buy in other neighborhoods, where housing money is more affordable, they, on the margin, will. Furthermore, recent studies of credit counseling programs suggest that these programs have little effect on borrower behavior. The end result is that homeowners in these poor black neighborhoods suddenly have less equity in their homes than they had on Monday.

Legislation like this is often motivated by an unspoken belief that poor black people are incapable of making important decisions for themselves. We see this belief reflected in the protection of failed public schools, and now with respect to personal finances. But the very people for whom such a law was enacted were responsible and wise enough to save to make the down payments necessary to buy these homes in the first place. Suddenly, these same people must have their choices reviewed and second-guessed by state bureaucrats who have no stake in the outcome, or accountability for incorrect or unresponsive decisions. It is hard to imagine the fate of a similar but broader law imposing credit counseling upon all Illinois residents, including white professionals residing in the Chicago suburbs of Evanston, Winnetka, or Kennilworth. Would there have been enough votes in Springfield to impose these "benefits" on everyone, rather than just the residents of the Southwest side of Chicago?

I'm just a nuts and bolts guy. I see some issues here:

First, by increasing the cost of doing business in the relevant zip codes, the law is increasing the lender's cost of doing business. It is not plain how the lenders will pass this on to the consumers, but pass it on they will. This has the effect of making loans more expensive. I can see two methods: either requiring everyone on the state of Illinois to pay more, or requiring only those owners actually within the area to pay it. If they require only those within the area to pay, an excellent case can be made that higher loan costs makes for functional redlining, and the federal courts can intervene, and almost certainly will, possibly invalidating the law. If they require that everyone pay the extra costs, this functionally raises the cost of doing business everywhere in Illinois. This will also make it harder to qualify for loans in the requisite areas, as lenders will have incentive to throw roadblocks in the way of potential clients from those areas. Due to redlining regulations, I'm not certain how far that lenders will go, but it certainly won't make loans easier to get or cheaper.

Second issue: no matter the intent, no matter who pays, this will cause loans to take longer and cost more, in addition to previously discussed costs of the program. For previous work as to why, see my essay on Mortgage Loan Rate Locks. The point, however, is that the State of Illinois is going to take some unknown period of time to consider the case. Then the client is potentially going to have to go to a credit counselor, who is going to have to get paid before providing the necessary legal blessing to the transaction. Furthermore, if the credit counselor wants more work at the expense of delaying the transaction, they can apparently make it happen by my reading of the law. All rate locks are for a specified period of time. Given this, there are three alternatives. One, float the rate (don't lock) and hope that rates don't rise. Second, lock for a longer period, which costs more. Third, pay an extension. Since the outcome when you don't lock for long enough or don't pay extensions is pretty much universally "worst case pricing" (i.e. the worse of rates when you locked or current rates), this means significantly higher loan costs, loan rate, or (most likely) both.

Third, as I said before, since this is going to motivate lenders to not want to do business there, and makes it harder to get loans in the effected areas, and quite likely increase the rates and costs of loans in the area as a consequence. This directly restricts how much of a house, price-wise, people in the area can qualify for, which in turn will have the net effect of decreasing sales prices in the area, further hurting current residents.

There are probably further detrimental aspects to new requirements, but the Illinois legislature deleted an existing requirement that, while apparently weak and subject to abuse in that a prospective loan provider was free to provide a prospective client with information only on loans that are worse than the first proposal, at the very least gave the client some further information as to alternative loans.

In short, the actions of the Illinois Legislature in this instance could, according to my understanding, basically be taken from a manual on "How To Hurt Poor People Even More".

Caveat Emptor (and Caveat Voter).


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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on November 2, 2007 7:00 AM.

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