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MBA CEO revisits 30-year fixed mortgage as housing nears bottom

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The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, the cornerstone of mortgage products, is getting a bad rap. Several press reports are casting a light on weaknesses and many in the industry ask if the product is even needed or relevant in today's market. On Tuesday, at a conference in New York, the former commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration said the vintage mortgage is staying put regardless of the changes coming to the industry. Policymakers are receptive to feedback on the preservation of the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage as a vehicle for providing secure loans to middle-class families, Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO David Stevens said Tuesday. Stevens said regulatory discussions over the traditional mortgage revolve around two opposing views. One argument holds mortgage rates have consistently fallen over the past few decades, quashing the need for a 30-year FRM. The counter argument claims the 30-year loan is needed in periods of rising interests rates to insure middle-class families have access to an important mortgage-financing vehicle and interest-rate protection, Stevens said. He said the 30-year, FRM will exist in some form, but it's unknown exactly what form. The fate of the 30-year, FRM is just one of the issues the MBA is tackling as policymakers begin crafting the nation's post-recession housing finance market. Stevens officially stepped into his role as head of the MBA Monday. "I view our role to be in the unique position of articulating the details and potential impacts as policies are discussed," Stevens said Tuesday. The executive said there is room for optimism and described the current state of the housing market "as clearly near the bottom" and in some markets "at the bottom." "We are seeing new foreclosure starts down, and in soft markets, like California and Florida, we are seeing improvements in new foreclosure starts," Stevens said. Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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