Sens. Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez Reintroduce HARP Refi Bill

Two Democratic senators have introduced a bill that would extend the HARP refinancing program through 2014, expand borrower access and curb certain loan fees.

The bill (S. 249) is also designed to create more competition between lenders and servicers in refinancing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans.

This bill will help millions of borrowers with GSE loans to refinance at lower rates, according to the sponsors Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

“It is a win-win-win,” Boxer said. “Homeowners will have more money in their pockets, Fannie and Freddie will see fewer foreclosures, and the housing market and economy will continue building momentum.”

The Home Affordable Refinance Program was originally aimed at providing streamline refinancings of GSE loans with LTVs above 80% to 125%. The 125% cap was eliminated in early 2012.

The Boxer-Menendez bill would expand HARP to include refinancings of all GSE loans, including loans with LTVs below 80%.

“This bill prohibits the GSEs from charging upfront fees to refinance any loan they already guarantee, which is also in the best financial interests of the GSEs and taxpayers,” according to a summary of the bill.

To increase competition, the authors directed the GSEs to ensure lenders that refinance a GSE loan are subject to the same representations and warranties as the lender that services the loan.

Currently, the new lender faces stricter rep-and-warranty liability than the lender that owns the servicing. The different standards pose a barrier to competition, “resulting in higher prices and less favorable terms for borrowers,” the summary says.

The two senators introduced a similar HARP bill last year but it never reached the Senate floor for a vote.