Lenders should not get so desperate chasing volume by originating lower credit non-qualified mortgage products that they are inviting the next regulatory crackdown, said David Stevens, the Mortgage Bankers Association's CEO.

If things go bad, the next presidential administration could push the regulatory pendulum back to the tight side and there will be overregulation again, said Stevens, who announced his retirement in October, at the Regional Conference of MBAs in Atlantic City, N.J.

"You want good regulations but in excess they create market restraints," he said.

Going forward, lenders must exercise collective responsibility on the quality of loans being originated. However, there is a "fight to maintain profitability in our industry and some of these products are going to be interesting," he said.

David Stevens
If things go bad, the next presidential administration could push the regulatory pendulum back to the tight side and there will overregulation again, said MBA President and CEO David Stevens. Bloomberg News

Underwriting remains conservative, and supply and demand for houses is the biggest influencer on the market, especially when it comes to rising values. That is coloring views on underwriting; when he speaks with consumer groups, they are complaining underwriting is too tight. On the other hand, the think tanks say underwriting is too loose.

When it comes to the inventory shortage, the U.S. "hasn't seen a crisis like this since the end of World War II," when returning veterans entered the market, Stevens said, pointing out the end result of that was the creation of Levittown, N.Y., the first large suburban development.

While earlier speakers at the conference discounted the possibility for housing finance reform during 2018 especially as the midterm elections near, the industry can't relax its vigilance, Stevens said.

He mentioned the possibility of the Federal Housing Finance Agency doing reform by fiat, especially after Mel Watt's term ends next January.

Moreover, after the elections, Congress returns for the lame-duck session and if one or both houses flip control to the Democrats that could force the Republicans to act. The mortgage industry needs to have "all hands on deck" to push the MBA's views on housing finance reform, he said.