Occasionally, the ivory-tower set comes up with these wacky ideas to have banks share risk with borrowers. Fannie and Freddie may not be interested just due to the complexity, but if a private bank gave it a run with a good marketing push, they might find an audience. Hat tip to Scott S. who sent this in from Bloomberg BusinessWeek:
Entertaining as it is, playing the financial crisis blame game gets us nowhere. A more useful contribution from Mian and Sufi is the shared-responsibility mortgage, their prescription to make economies less vulnerable to debt-fueled bubbles. In such a mortgage, lenders take some of the hit if housing prices fall and reap some of the reward if they rise. “Had such mortgages been in place when house prices collapsed, the Great Recession in the United States would not have been ‘Great’ at all,” they argue. “It would have been a garden variety downturn with many fewer jobs lost.”
Their claim is bold, perhaps too bold, but the strategy for making debt less dangerous by putting a twist into the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is sound.
If an index of home prices in a home’s ZIP code fell, say, 30 percent, then the borrower’s monthly payment of principal and interest would also fall 30 percent. That’s not achieved by stretching out the length of the loan, which lenders sometimes will do: Despite the smaller payment, the mortgage would still get paid off over 30 years. Financially speaking, it would be equivalent to getting a reduction in principal.
If prices recover, payments go back up, but never above the original amount. Lenders would ordinarily charge a higher rate for that protection, but Mian and Sufi calculate that they would be willing to forgo a bump on the rate if they were given some upside potential: 5 percent of any capital gain the homeowner gets upon selling or refinancing the house.
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