Wells Fargo Symposium Looks at Sustaining Homeownership
With the recent downturn in the housing market causing financial hardship for many American home owners, some key players in the mortgage lending industry are trying to help those families through these tough times.
Safeguarding the nation’s homeownership opportunities was the focus of a Wells Fargo housing symposium on June 14 in Washington, D.C. to help commemorate National Homeownership Month.
“Wells Fargo's vision is to help satisfy all of our customers' financial needs and help them succeed financially. We are driven by this vision, which includes helping as many people as possible achieve and maintain the dream of being a home owner,” said Cara Heiden, division president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.
“We believe it is our responsibility to collaborate with industry partners on leading fair and responsible lending and servicing, advancing customer education and continuing to develop solutions for consumers who face financial difficulties,” she said.
In a keynote address, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson spoke of the need to modernize the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).
“The FHA has helped more than 34 million American families become home owners,” Jackson said. “But today, the FHA has been left without the tools needed to address many of the problems in the housing market.
“We need FHA reform and we need it now,” said Jackson, who also referenced a Wells Fargo survey that found that 80% of Americans support FHA reform.
“There are some who think that homeownership has hit a ceiling and we can’t get rates any higher,” Jackson said. “I think differently. I think we’ve hit a bump in the road. I truly believe that the future of housing is bright, once we get past this bump in the road.”
The program also included a discussion of what it takes to build and finance the American dream.
“You could not pick up a newspaper for a two-week period in March without seeing a headline about the looming foreclosure crisis,” said Steve O’Connor, senior vice president for public policy at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “There were consumer groups calling for a national moratorium on foreclosures. We thought that was a bad idea.”
Congressional action to address the problem is not needed, said O’Connor. “The market has been swift to punish the least disciplined actors,” he said. “Fifty-eight mortgage institutions have gone out of business in the last year — gone bankrupt, been bought out, whatever. The market is much faster than Congress.”
O’Connor called for more transparency in the mortgage process and more effort to improve financial literacy. “We want to teach life skills early to help young consumers avoid mistakes that will make it more difficult to achieve homeownership,” he said.