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The mortgage lending industry, including credit unions that offer mortgage loans, could see a significant impact on their mortgage business if the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) follows through with its proposed rule changes to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). HUD’s proposal would allow lenders to roll mortgage and settlement services into one package, offering a guaranteed price at a guaranteed interest rate. On the surface, this sounds reasonable and would perhaps allow one-stop shopping for the consumer. But closely examining the rule’s impact, it appears the mortgage playing field could be tilted in the direction of “nationwide mega-lenders,” which leverage production economies of scale that favor volume-based pricing. I commend HUD for its noble objective of simplifying the rules to offer consumers an easier approach to understanding mortgage loans. But the new rule may ultimately create more challenges for the consumer by de-stabilizing a process that has been established for more than 30 years. To present the credit union movement’s perspective, I joined several credit union executives, along with CUNA & Affiliates’ representatives, in meeting with HUD Assistant Secretary John Weicher on Sept. 8 to discuss the implications of the proposed rule change. Assistant Secretary Weicher was receptive to our message, but did not indicate HUD’s immediate intention with respect to the changes or the timing of the rule publication. As we stated to Assistant Secretary Weicher, we feel HUD’s proposed RESPA rule change is the most significant issue confronting the mortgage industry today. We urged HUD to consider that changes of this magnitude will provide anything but simplification and may ultimately impede industry competition. One of the messages we delivered was that credit unions have been longtime leaders in assisting first-time homebuyers and low-income consumers, a mission very compatible with HUD’s own charter. Our discussion led to HUD having a heightened sensitivity to the credit union marketplace. We helped HUD understand the unique market credit unions serve and how the proposed RESPA change may influence our industry’s opportunities to serve the marketplace. Following whatever action HUD takes, we at CUNA Mutual Mortgage will inform and educate our credit union partners on the potential implications of the rule change, and continue to build strategies that provide credit unions with the power to compete. Dan Rotert Chief Operating Officer CUNA Mutual Mortgage Corp. Madison, Wis.

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