Halt of HUD Reverse Mortgages Opens a Door

Article excerpt

The law creating the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, offered through HUD, expired Sept. 30, giving lenders a chance to step up marketing of their own products.

Equity conversion mortgages, better known as reverse mortgages, generally allow homeowners 62 years of age or more to borrow money against their home equity, with no need to make repayment until the house is sold or ownership is transferred.

The loan proceeds are often received in monthly payments but can also be paid out on other schedules, including a lump sum.

Targeted toward income-poor but home-rich seniors, reverse mortgages occupy a small but growing market niche. About 25,000 such mortgages exist in the United States, most of which were originated in the last few years, according to Ken Scholen, director of the Center for Home Equity Conversion.

About 13,000 of the mortgages were secured through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's program.

Experts say it's not controversy that is stalling the renewal of the program, but difficulty in passing a large bill through both houses of a slow-moving Congress. The appropriations bill the mortgage program is linked to will be vetoed by the President for reasons not related to the program, according to several sources.

"The program enjoys very broad bipartisan support, it's just a matter of finding a vehicle (to drive it through Congress)," said Don Redfoot, legislative representative for the American Association of Retired Persons.

How long that will take is "anyone's guess," according to one expert.

But strong backing by Rick Lazio, R-N.Y., chairman of the House subcommittee on housing, may ensure that it passes sooner rather than later, Mr. …