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Dec 28 -- The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is seeking public comments by February 28, 2022 concerning the planned 2022 American Survey of Mortgage Borrowers (ASMB).
FHFA is seeking OMB clearance under the PRA for a collection of information known as the “American Survey of Mortgage Borrowers” (ASMB). The ASMB, conducted annually or biennially, is a voluntary survey of individuals who currently have a first mortgage loan secured by single-family residential property. The 2020 survey questionnaire consisted of 92 questions designed to learn directly from mortgage borrowers about their mortgage experience, any challenges they may have had in maintaining their mortgage, and their experience with mortgage forbearance and the COVID-19 pandemic. It requested specific information on: The mortgage; the mortgaged property; the borrower's experience with the loan servicer; any serious life events that had happened to the borrower in 2020; and the borrower's financial resources and financial knowledge. FHFA is also seeking clearance to pretest future iterations of the survey questionnaire and related materials from time to time through the use of focus groups. A copy of the 2020 survey questionnaire appears at the end of this notice [and https://www.consumerfinance.gov/documents/9251/cfpb_asmb-2020_questionnaire.pdf].

The ASMB is a component of the “National Mortgage Database” (NMDB) Program, which is a joint effort of FHFA and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The NMDB Program is designed to satisfy the Congressionally-mandated requirements of section 1324(c) of the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act. Section 1324(c) requires that FHFA conduct a monthly survey to collect data on the characteristics of individual prime and subprime mortgages, and on the borrowers and properties associated with those mortgages, in order to enable it to prepare a detailed annual report on the mortgage market activities of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) for review by the appropriate Congressional oversight committees. Section 1324(c) also authorizes and requires FHFA to compile a database of otherwise unavailable residential mortgage market information to make that information available to the public in a timely fashion.

As a means of fulfilling these and other statutory requirements, as well as to support policymaking and research regarding the residential mortgage markets, FHFA and CFPB jointly established the National Mortgage Database Program in 2012. The Program is designed to provide comprehensive information about the U.S. mortgage market and has three primary components: (1) The NMDB; (2) the quarterly National Survey of Mortgage Originations (NSMO); and (3) the ASMB.

The NMDB is a de-identified loan-level database of closed-end first-lien residential mortgage loans that is representative of the market as a whole, contains detailed loan-level information on the terms and performance of the mortgages and the characteristics of the associated borrowers and properties, is continually updated, has an historical component dating back to 1998, and provides a sampling frame for surveys to collect additional information. The core data in the NMDB are drawn from a random 1-in-20 sample of all closed-end first-lien mortgage files outstanding at any time between January 1998 and the present in the files of Experian, one of the three national credit repositories. A random 1-in-20 sample of mortgages newly reported to Experian is added each quarter.

The NMDB also draws information on mortgages in the NMDB datasets from other existing sources, including the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data that are maintained by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), property valuation models, and data files maintained by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and by federal agencies. FHFA obtains additional data from the quarterly NSMO, which provides critical and timely information on newly-originated mortgages and those borrowing that are not available from any existing source, including: The range of nontraditional and subprime mortgage products being offered, the methods by which these mortgages are being marketed, and the characteristics of borrowers for these types of loans.

While the NSMO provides information on newly-originated mortgages, the ASMB solicits information on borrowers' experience with maintaining their existing mortgages, including their experience maintaining mortgages under financial stress, their experience in soliciting financial assistance, their success in accessing federally-sponsored programs designed to assist them, and, where applicable, any challenges they may have had in terminating a mortgage loan. This type of information is not available from any other source. From 2016 to 2018, the ASMB questionnaire was sent out annually to a stratified random sample of 10,000 borrowers in the NMDB. The ASMB survey was not conducted in 2019, but the ASMB questionnaire was sent out again in 2020 to a stratified random sample of 10,000 borrowers in the NMDB. In 2020, the ASMB had a 21.5 percent overall response rate, which yielded 2,119 survey responses. Although the ASMB began as an annual survey, it will be conducted biennially, with plans to conduct the next survey in 2022.

When fully processed, the information collected through the ASMB will be used, in combination with information obtained from existing sources in the NMDB, to assist FHFA in understanding how the performance of existing mortgages is influencing the residential mortgage market, what different borrower groups are discussing with their servicers when they are under financial stress, and consumers' opinions of federally-sponsored programs designed to assist them, including mortgage relief such as forbearance. This important, but otherwise unavailable, information will assist FHFA in the supervision of its regulated entities (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks) and in the development and implementation of appropriate and effective policies and programs. The information will also be used for research and analysis by CFPB and other federal agencies that have regulatory and supervisory responsibilities/mandates related to mortgage markets and to provide a resource for research and analysis by academics and other interested parties outside of the government.

As it has done in the past, FHFA expects to continue to sponsor focus groups to pretest possible survey questions and revisions to the survey materials. Such pretesting ultimately helps to ensure that the survey respondents can and will answer the survey questions and will provide useful data on their experiences with maintaining their existing mortgages. FHFA uses information collected through the focus groups to assist in drafting and modifying the survey questions and instructions, as well as the related communications, to read in the way that will be most readily understood by the survey respondents and that will be most likely to elicit usable responses. Such information is also used to help determine how best to organize and format the survey questionnaire.

FR notice inviting comment on 2022 ASMB: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/12/28/2021-28208/presidents-council-of-advisors-on-science-and-technology

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