New HECM Head Hopes to ‘Move Needle’ in New Role

The new Senior Advisor to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Single Family Programs, Dr. Joshua Miller, introduced himself Monday to the reverse mortgage industry by giving a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program update to assembled reverse mortgage professionals.

Miller, named to his new post in mid-February, offered data related to the HECM program and its projected standing into the remainder of the current fiscal year to attendees at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) Western Regional Meeting in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Most economists have difficulty articulating why they chose the field of economics to pursue as a career, Miller said to the assembled NRMLA audience, since it could stem from almost anything. This could include something like a college professor making an impression on a student who is then inspired to move into the field, he opined.

“It is clear to me, though, why I ended up in housing,” Miller said. “I’m the son of a carpenter, and worked on a lot of houses as a kid. So, I’m very happy to be in this particular field of economics.”

Miller’s new role will give him day-to-day duties relating to the oversight of the HECM program, with NRMLA CEO Peter Bell equating Miller’s role to one previously held by Karin Hill, whose duties in the Office of Single Family Housing saw her spend a significant portion of her time on the HECM program before her retirement in 2017.

HUD sees the need to address senior housing issues as “pressing,” according to Miller, particularly because the population of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to double by the year 2050.

Miller shared case number assignments and endorsement figures for the year-to-date in 2019 versus 2018 numbers, indicating case number assignments are trending up slightly, while endorsements are down slightly. The endorsement numbers are not complete, however, based on very few days of endorsements during the month of January when the government was operating under a partial shutdown.

The government’s geographic HECM data was also shared by Miller, illustrating that the biggest concentration of HECM loans are localized to the highest population areas in the country, particularly in the states of California, Florida and Texas, respectively.

HUD’s HECM program philosophy is one that will implement, monitor and measure the impact of policy changes, Miller said. Entering into this philosophy is the financial performance of the HECM portfolio, the economic conditions relating to home prices and interest rates and ways that policies like the collateral risk assessment can potentially impact the performance of the HECM program on the Mutual Mortgage Insurance (MMI) Fund.

Among his goals for stepping into his new position is to make sure that implementing, monitoring and measuring through rigorous analysis is done, Miller shared.

“This is a very critically important topic,” Miller said. “And I’m hopeful I can move the needle in a positive direction.”

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