Monday, March 12, 2012

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is a United States government agency created as part of the National Housing Act of 1934. It insured loans made by banks and other private lenders for home building and home buying. The goals of this organization are to improve housing standards and conditions, provide an adequate home financing system through insurance of mortgage loans, and to stabilize the mortgage market. As of July, 2011, the Acting Commissioner of the FHA is Carol Galante.

During the Great Depression, the banking system failed, causing a drastic decrease in home loans and ownership. At this time, most home mortgages were short-term (three to five years), no amortization, balloon instruments at loan-to-value (LTV) ratios below fifty to sixty percent. The banking crisis of the 1930s forced all lenders to retrieve due mortgages. Refinancing was not available, and many borrowers, now unemployed, were unable to make mortgage payments. Consequently, many homes were foreclosed, causing the housing market to plummet. Banks collected the loan collateral (foreclosed homes) but the low property values resulted in a relative lack of assets. Because there was little faith in the backing of the U.S. government, few loans were issued and few new homes were purchased.

In 1934 the federal banking system was restructured. The National Housing Act of 1934 was passed and the Federal Housing Administration was created. Its intent was to regulate the rate of interest and the terms of mortgages that it insured. These new lending practices increased the number of people who could afford a down payment on a house and monthly debt service payments on a mortgage, thereby also increasing the size of the market for single-family homes.

The FHA calculated appraisal value based on eight criteria and directed its agents to lend more for higher appraised projects, up to a maximum cap. The two most important were "Relative Economic Stability," which constituted 40% of appraisal value, and "Protection from adverse influences," which made up another 20%.

During World War II, the FHA financed a number of worker's housing projects including the Kensington Gardens Apartment Complex in Buffalo, New York. Created by FDR and enacted by Congress.

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