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    Subject Term: Homeownership

    6 publications with a total of 15 open recommendations including 4 priority recommendations
    Director: Garcia-diaz, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-4529

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To better ensure that taxpayer funds are being used effectively, Congress should consider permanently rescinding any Treasury-deobligated excess MHA balances that Treasury does not move into the Hardest Hit Fund.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has not taken any action since Treasury has not deobligated MHA program funds beyond the $2 billion that it transferred to the TARP-funded Hardest Hit Fund based on the October 2017 TARP Monthly Report to Congress.
    Recommendation: To provide Congress and others with accurate assessments of the funding that has been and will likely be used to help troubled borrowers and to identify any potential obligations not likely to be used, the Secretary of the Treasury should deobligate funds that its review shows will likely not be expended and obligate up to $2 billion of such funds to the TARP-funded Hardest Hit Fund as authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Treasury agreed with the recommendation and deobligated $2 billion as of February 2016 based on its updated MHA program cost estimates and indicated that it plans to commit this $2 billion to the Hardest Hit Fund program, as GAO recommended. However, Treasury has not deobligated an additional $2.7 billion in potential excess program funds identified by the cost estimate. Treasury has stated that it does not expect to deobligate any estimated excess funds from the MHA program prior to December 2017, when servicers report data on all final transactions. We maintain that Treasury should deobligate additional excess MHA funds that its review showed will likely not be expended and further update its cost estimates as additional information becomes available.
    Director: Mathew Scirè
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve monitoring and oversight of Treasury's HAMP, the Secretary of the Treasury should conduct periodic evaluations using analytical methods, such as econometric modeling as appropriate, to help explain differences among MHA servicers in redefault rates that may inform its compliance reviews of individual servicers, identify areas of weaknesses and best practices, and determine the potential need for additional program policy changes.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of the Second Quarter 2017, Treasury continues to monitor and report on the performance of Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) permanent loan modifications on a cohort basis (year loan was modified) and by other drivers of performance (payment reduction, credit score and delinquency status at time of modification, etc.). Additionally, Treasury officials stated that they monitor default rates by servicer on a monthly basis. However, they stated that they have not performed econometric analyses of redefault rates by individual servicer. By not capitalizing on the information these methods provide, Treasury may miss opportunities to identify individual servicer best practices that retain the greatest number of eligible borrowers.
    Director: Garcia-diaz, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-4529

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To build on task force and working group efforts already underway to coordinate, consolidate, or improve housing programs, and help inform Congress's decision-making process, the Secretaries or other designated officials of HUD, Treasury, USDA, and VA should evaluate and report on the specific opportunities for consolidating similar housing programs, including those that would require statutory changes.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Through their rental policy working group and single-family program task force, HUD, USDA, and Treasury have continued their efforts to improve operations and better coordinate and align certain requirements among the agencies' multifamily and single-family housing programs. For example, in 2014, the agencies implemented a pilot in 26 states and 808 multifamily housing properties to test the feasibility of conducting a single physical inspection that would satisfy all agencies' inspection requirements. Additionally, HUD, USDA, and Treasury signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2016 to formalize interagency efforts on federal rental housing policy. They are also developing a white paper to document the history and best practices of the rental policy working group. Further, USDA's Rural Housing Service (RHS) has entered into a shared service agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to manage real-estate owned (REO) preservation and disposition of single-family properties acquired through RHS's direct loan program. RHS stated that it also meets with FHA and VA to discuss single-family housing issues and opportunities for collaboration. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the current administration may reevaluate ongoing collaborative efforts across the different agencies, which could have implications for housing program consolidation. OMB has participated in interagency discussions on federal housing assistance, credit budgeting, and management of HUD, VA, and USDA housing programs. Nonetheless, the charters of both the rental policy working group and the single-family program task force limit their missions to issues that can be dealt with administratively. As of March 2017, neither group has reported on the areas where specific statutory changes are needed to help mitigate overlap and fragmentation and decrease costs.
    Recommendation: To build on task force and working group efforts already underway to coordinate, consolidate, or improve housing programs, and help inform Congress's decision-making process, the Secretaries or other designated officials of HUD, Treasury, USDA, and VA should evaluate and report on the specific opportunities for consolidating similar housing programs, including those that would require statutory changes.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: Through their rental policy working group and single-family program task force, HUD, USDA, and Treasury have continued their efforts to improve operations and better coordinate and align certain requirements among the agencies' multifamily and single-family housing programs. For example, in 2014, the agencies implemented a pilot in 26 states and 808 multifamily housing properties to test the feasibility of conducting a single physical inspection that would satisfy all agencies' inspection requirements. Additionally, HUD, USDA, and Treasury signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2016 to formalize interagency efforts on federal rental housing policy. They are also developing a white paper to document the history and best practices of the rental policy working group. Further, USDA's Rural Housing Service (RHS) has entered into a shared service agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to manage real-estate owned (REO) preservation and disposition of single-family properties acquired through RHS's direct loan program. RHS stated that it also meets with FHA and VA to discuss single-family housing issues and opportunities for collaboration. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the current administration may reevaluate ongoing collaborative efforts across the different agencies, which could have implications for housing program consolidation. OMB has participated in interagency discussions on federal housing assistance, credit budgeting, and management of HUD, VA, and USDA housing programs. Nonetheless, the charters of both the rental policy working group and the single-family program task force limit their missions to issues that can be dealt with administratively. As of March 2017, neither group has reported on the areas where specific statutory changes are needed to help mitigate overlap and fragmentation and decrease costs.
    Recommendation: To build on task force and working group efforts already underway to coordinate, consolidate, or improve housing programs, and help inform Congress's decision-making process, the Secretaries or other designated officials of HUD, Treasury, USDA, and VA should evaluate and report on the specific opportunities for consolidating similar housing programs, including those that would require statutory changes.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Through their rental policy working group and single-family program task force, HUD, USDA, and Treasury have continued their efforts to improve operations and better coordinate and align certain requirements among the agencies' multifamily and single-family housing programs. For example, in 2014, the agencies implemented a pilot in 26 states and 808 multifamily housing properties to test the feasibility of conducting a single physical inspection that would satisfy all agencies' inspection requirements. Additionally, HUD, USDA, and Treasury signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2016 to formalize interagency efforts on federal rental housing policy. They are also developing a white paper to document the history and best practices of the rental policy working group. Further, USDA's Rural Housing Service (RHS) has entered into a shared service agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to manage real-estate owned (REO) preservation and disposition of single-family properties acquired through RHS's direct loan program. RHS stated that it also meets with FHA and VA to discuss single-family housing issues and opportunities for collaboration. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the current administration may reevaluate ongoing collaborative efforts across the different agencies, which could have implications for housing program consolidation. OMB has participated in interagency discussions on federal housing assistance, credit budgeting, and management of HUD, VA, and USDA housing programs. Nonetheless, the charters of both the rental policy working group and the single-family program task force limit their missions to issues that can be dealt with administratively. As of March 2017, neither group has reported on the areas where specific statutory changes are needed to help mitigate overlap and fragmentation and decrease costs.
    Recommendation: To build on task force and working group efforts already underway to coordinate, consolidate, or improve housing programs, and help inform Congress's decision-making process, the Secretaries or other designated officials of HUD, Treasury, USDA, and VA should evaluate and report on the specific opportunities for consolidating similar housing programs, including those that would require statutory changes.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: In responding to the draft report, VA concurred in principle with this recommendation but would not support unilateral reporting and evaluation in this area. VA maintains that the consolidation of the VA Home Guarantee Program with housing program of HUD or another agency is counter to statute that authorizes that its program be operated by VA. VA participates in the single-family interagency task force, along with HUD, USDA, and OMB. A tangible result from that task force is that VA has established an inter-agency agreement with USDA in an effort to increase efficiency and reduce costs by using VA processes for disposing of USDA real estate assets. However, the task force's charter limits its mission to issues that can be dealt with administratively and thus has not reported on areas where specific statutory changes are needed. The recommendation calls for the Secretaries or other designated officials to evaluate and report on opportunities to consolidate similar housing programs, including those that would require statutory changes. As such, the recommendation will stay open until the agencies provide sufficient evidence that they are working together to identify such opportunities. According to the VA, the agency will not take any action to identify opportunities that require statutory changes.
    Director: Scire, Mathew J
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    5 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: In order to better ensure that servicers are effectively implementing the agency's loss mitigation programs and that distressed borrowers are receiving the assistance they need as early as possible before they become seriously delinquent, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture should require servicers to report information about their efforts to reach distressed borrowers. For example, servicers could report on their efforts to reach borrowers and whether borrowers have responded to outreach from the servicer regarding early delinquency interventions and are receiving informal foreclosure mitigation actions.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its 60-day response letter, USDA noted that currently, its Rural Housing Service (RHS) guaranteed loan servicers are required to perform outreach and early delinquency intervention and informal mitigation actions within agency-prescribed timeframes. Also, each servicer is required to maintain automated records of these contacts and attempted contacts. According to USDA. RHS will utilize both internal and external means to analyze data obtained periodically through loan servicers. Loan level data outlining foreclosure prevention efforts such as borrower contact, loss mitigation actions attempted, loss mitigation actions implemented, and failed loss mitigation actions will be assessed in order to better evaluate the effectiveness of RHS'foreclosure prevention guidance. Data will be collected from loan servicers via monthly reporting in conjunction with data obtained through compliance reviews conducted by RHS and its program compliance agent. Utilizing these compliance reviews, USDA stated that RHS will perform a management review of the results and will provide feedback to the servicers to increase compliance. In a September 2013 status update, USDA stated that it was developing manual processes that will provide clarity with respect to lender loss mitigation performance as recommended by GAO. USDA currently captures limited loss mitigation data that yields performance results, assisting the program in its efforts to mitigate risk. These manual processes will remain in effect until USDA has completed the build-out of the enhanced electronic data reporting requirements of lenders that participate in the program. In addition, USDA noted that it was finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding with Ginnie Mae to gain access to their program default data that will provide insight into the loss mitigation retention workout performance of 502 Guaranteed borrowers. According to an update from USDA officials, the Memorandum of Understanding with Ginnie Mae is no longer being pursued because Ginnie Mae was not in favor of it.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of USDA should determine the extent to which distressed borrowers have not been reached and assess whether changes are needed to help ensure servicers are complying with USDA's loss mitigation requirements.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its 60-day response letter, USDA stated that it supported GAO's recommendation to require servicers to report their efforts to reach distressed borrowers and report, on a portfolio level, the extent to which servicers are complying with USDA's loss mitigation requirements. USDA also stated that data will be collected from loan servicers via monthly reporting in conjunction with data obtained through compliance reviews conducted by it Rural Housing Service (RHS) and its program compliance agent. Utilizing these compliance reviews, RHS will perform a management review of the results and will provide feedback to the servicers to increase compliance. In a September 2013 status update, USDA stated that it was developing manual processes that will provide clarity with respect to lender loss mitigation performance as recommended by GAO. USDA currently captures limited loss mitigation data that yields performance results, assisting the program in its efforts to mitigate risk. These manual processes will remain in effect until USDA has completed the build-out of the enhanced electronic data reporting requirements of lenders that participate in the program. In addition, USDA noted that it was finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding with Ginnie Mae to gain access to their program default data that will provide insight into the loss mitigation retention workout performance of 502 Guaranteed borrowers. This data, which will help evaluate the effectiveness of loss mitigation efforts on both borrower outcome and agency cost bases, will be gathered with the assistance of the consulting team now supporting lender compliance. According to an update from USDA officials, the Memorandum of Understanding with Ginnie Mae is no longer being pursued because Ginnie Mae was not in favor of it.
    Recommendation: To more fully understand the strengths and risks posed by foreclosure mitigation actions and protect taxpayers from absorbing avoidable losses to the maximum extent possible, the FHA, VA, and USDA should conduct periodic analyses of the effectiveness and the long-term costs and benefits of their loss mitigation strategies and actions. These analyses should consider (1) the redefault rates associated with each type of home retention action and (2) the impact that loan and borrower characteristics have on the performance of different home retention actions. The agencies should use the results from these analyses to reevaluate their loss mitigation approach and provide additional guidance to servicers to effectively target foreclosure mitigation actions. If FHA, VA, and USDA do not maintain data needed to consider this information, they should require services to provide them.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development: Federal Housing Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: FHA agreed with this recommendation. In November 2012, FHA revised the types of mitigation actions and manner in which the actions are offered. FHA officials have begun to evaluate the effectiveness of these changes. Specifically, FHA is analyzing the redefault and failure rates associated with its various loss mitigation options. HUD contracted with the Urban Institute to conduct a comprehensive study of FHA's loss mitigation program which was completed in December 2016. To fully implement this recommendation, FHA needs to use the results of a HUD-commissioned 2016 Urban Institute study of FHA's loss mitigation program and internal evaluation of early interaction with delinquent borrowers to reevaluate its loss mitigation approach and, as appropriate, provide guidance to mortgage servicers to effectively target foreclosure mitigation actions.
    Recommendation: To more fully understand the strengths and risks posed by foreclosure mitigation actions and protect taxpayers from absorbing avoidable losses to the maximum extent possible, the FHA, VA, and USDA should conduct periodic analyses of the effectiveness and the long-term costs and benefits of their loss mitigation strategies and actions. These analyses should consider (1) the redefault rates associated with each type of home retention action and (2) the impact that loan and borrower characteristics have on the performance of different home retention actions. The agencies should use the results from these analyses to reevaluate their loss mitigation approach and provide additional guidance to servicers to effectively target foreclosure mitigation actions. If FHA, VA, and USDA do not maintain data needed to consider this information, they should require services to provide them.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA agreed with this recommendation but has not yet fully implemented it. Specifically, VA plans to collect and analyze data on redefault rates and determine how those results could inform its loss mitigation approach and guidance to servicers. In August 2016, VA told GAO that it had configured a server to process program data and was in the process of procuring statistical analytic software to conduct analyses. After VA procures the software, it plans to process data files, develop the analytical framework for identifying redefault rates of modified loans, and validate and run the models. VA's target completion date to report preliminary results is mid-2017.
    Recommendation: To more fully understand the strengths and risks posed by foreclosure mitigation actions and protect taxpayers from absorbing avoidable losses to the maximum extent possible, the FHA, VA, and USDA should conduct periodic analyses of the effectiveness and the long-term costs and benefits of their loss mitigation strategies and actions. These analyses should consider (1) the redefault rates associated with each type of home retention action and (2) the impact that loan and borrower characteristics have on the performance of different home retention actions. The agencies should use the results from these analyses to reevaluate their loss mitigation approach and provide additional guidance to servicers to effectively target foreclosure mitigation actions. If FHA, VA, and USDA do not maintain data needed to consider this information, they should require services to provide them.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA agreed with this recommendation but has not yet fully implemented it. Specifically, USDA indicated that it plans to conduct periodic analyses of the effectiveness and long-term costs and benefits of its loss mitigation strategies and actions. USDA representatives stated that it had allocated funding to build monthly data gathering and analysis capability. USDA representatives also told GAO that the agency completed the basic development and internal testing of the new software in December 2015 and began testing and implementing the software with lenders in September 2016. USDA representatives have identified April 2018 as their tentative implementation date.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To help protect the quality of our nation's water resources, and to strengthen EPA's implementation of its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act's section 319 nonpoint source pollution control program, the Administrator of EPA should provide specific guidance to EPA's 10 regional offices on how they are to fulfill their oversight responsibilities, such as how to review states' plans for project feasibility and criteria to ensure that funded projects have characteristics that reflect the greatest likelihood of effective implementation and tangible water quality results.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2013, EPA issued new guidance "Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories" for the nonpoint source program. The guidance includes a checklist that aligns with the intent of our recommendation to provide additional guidance to regional offices. In July 2016, we issued an update of EPA's progress on our recommendations. In it, we conclude that EPA's 2013 guidance does not provide specific instruction to the regional offices on how to review states' plans for project feasibility and criteria to ensure that funded projects have characteristics reflecting the greatest likelihood of tangible water quality results, as we recommended. In January 2017, EPA said that it looked broadly at ways to improve the program and remain committed to making technical and program changes as needed. We will continue to monitor EPA's efforts on this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help protect the quality of our nation's water resources, and to strengthen EPA's implementation of its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act's section 319 nonpoint source pollution control program, the Administrator of EPA should, in revising section 319 guidelines to states, and in addition to existing statutorily required reporting measures, emphasize measures that (1) more accurately reflect the overall health of targeted water bodies (e.g., the number, kind, and condition of living organisms) and (2) demonstrate states' focus on protecting high-quality water bodies, where appropriate.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In 2013, EPA issued final "Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories." The guidelines require EPA regions to review some watershed-based plans in each state annually, for example. The new guidelines also require that half of a state's 319 allocation be spent on implementing watershed plans, which according to EPA, emphasizes overall health of targeted waterbodies. In July 2016, we issued an update on our recommendations saying that the EPA officials said that they plan to change the program's measures of effectiveness, but have not had time or resources to do so. EPA officials said they plan to create a workgroup to focus on creating a measure for the protection of healthy water bodies in 2017. In January 2017, EPA said that it remained committed to pursue a measure for maintaining high-quality waters. Until EPA takes concrete action on this measure, we will keep this recommendation open.
    Director: Scire, Mathew J
    Phone: (202)512-6794

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To the extent that the CDBG program continues to be the primary vehicle used to provide post-disaster assistance for permanent housing, Congress may wish to consider providing more specific direction regarding the distribution of disaster-related CDBG assistance that states are to provide for homeowners and renters. If Congress wishes to change the proportion of assistance directed to homeowners and rental property owners in future recovery efforts, Congress could, for example, require states to demonstrate to HUD that they are adequately addressing the needs of both homeowners and renters with their CDBG allocation and other resources as a condition for receiving funds. Alternatively, Congress could direct HUD to develop a formula that accounts for the housing needs of both homeowners and renters. Such a formula could be used by states to determine the proportions of their disaster CDBG funds that should be used for housing, specifically rental housing. Further, the formula could also reflect the anticipated production levels of other programs that provide permanent housing assistance, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Since the Gulf Coast hurricanes, Congress appropriated CDBG Disaster Funding for subsequent disasters, including $16 billion to assist recovery in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy and other eligible events in calendar years 2011, 2012, and 2013. According to Pub. L. No. 113-2, Congress did not require states to demonstrate to HUD that they were adequately addressing the needs of both homeowners and renters. Moreover, Congress does not appear to have directed HUD to develop a formula that accounts for the housing needs of both homeowners and renters. As of January 2017, no CDBG appropriations for disaster relief have addressed this issue.