FHA Announces Additional Steps to Spur Affordable Housing Development

A look at the new Small Buildings Risk Sharing initiative.

Washington, D.C.—The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) published a notice providing guidance on the new Small Buildings Risk Sharing (SBRS) Initiative. SBRS invites new private sector high-capacity lenders to partner with FHA to provide long-term fixed-rate lending products to multifamily property owners with mortgages of $3 million and up to $5 million in high-cost areas. SBRS builds on the record of affordable housing lending under HUD’s existing Risk Sharing programs with state and local housing finance agencies, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Small buildings comprise 34 percent of the total 17.5 million multifamily rental units in the United States, housing nearly 6 million households and, on average, offer lower rents than larger properties. Nearly 60 percent of small rental property owners are individuals, households and estates who face significant constraints accessing financing due to more stringent credit standards than larger property owners and the loss of many local banks after the 2008 recession. SBRS is designed to encourage lenders to enter this market and provide long-term, fixed rate capital to small building owners.

In return for assuming 50 percent of the risk, approved lenders in the program underwrite and service the loans subject to minimum standards which can reduce processing times relative to traditional FHA mortgage insurance programs. FHA’s willingness to assume half of the risk can free up lenders’ balance sheets and allow them to increase their lending activities without an additional federal subsidy or new regulations.

Given the challenges of accessing long-term fixed rate capital even with an FHA guaranty, the Administration has asked Congress for statutory relief to allow SBRS lenders to access funding through Ginnie Mae; in the interim, lenders will be eligible to access capital from the United States Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank at prevailing Ginnie Mae rates.

SBRS will provide new opportunities for lenders to make loans in rural communities. Rural communities have a disproportionately high share of small multifamily properties that could benefit from this program. Lending under this initiative will be limited to properties which are willing to meet affordability requirements to ensure at least of 20 percent of units rent for no more than 50 percent of area median income or 40 percent of the units rent for 60 percent of area median income.