What the housing bill means for you

Manufactured housing
FHA-insured loans for manufactured houses are limited to a maximum of $48,000 -- a limit that has been in effect since 1992. That limit finally will be increased to about $70,000 and will be indexed to inflation. These are the limits for loans in which the borrower is buying only the manufactured home and not the land under it.

According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, the raised limit will make a big difference to thousands of families. Under the $48,000 limit, a lot of families can afford only single-section homes. The increased limit will allow more people to buy double-section homes -- what are colloquially known as double-wides.

The law directs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to come up with new products and flexible underwriting standards for manufactured houses.

Service members returning from active duty abroad will be given breaks, effective as soon as the president signs the bill into law.

Some protections apply to service members whose military obligations affect their ability to repay debts -- primarily, reservists and members of the National Guard who are called to active duty. They have to leave their jobs and, in many cases, take pay cuts.

For these service members, there are protections having to do with foreclosures and interest rates. If a service member had a mortgage before entering active duty, a lender can't start foreclosure proceedings until nine months after the service member returns from active duty. Formerly, the protection period was 90 days.

Also, when someone with a mortgage is called up to active duty, the interest rates on all previously existing debt are capped at 6 percent. That goes for mortgages -- and for home loans, that 6 percent cap extends until one year after the service member returns from active duty.

The Defense Department will be required to provide foreclosure-prevention counseling upon request to service members who are returning from active duty abroad.

Other provisions of the law:

It will establish an Office of Housing Counseling, which coordinate all federal housing counseling functions, as well as produce booklets that will be given to people applying for mortgages.

It will require licensing and registration of all mortgage brokers. Several states have begun to license mortgage brokers and share the information through the Conference of State Bank Supervisors; this law extends that initiative nationally.

It won't ask questions about tornadoes. An earlier version of the bill would have commissioned a study into how to "mitigate the risks to manufactured housing residents and communities resulting from tornados." The inquiry into this head-scratcher will have to wait for another bill; it was deleted in the final version that passed into law.


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