New Senior FHA Staffer Describes Importance of Reverse Mortgage Product

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Single Family Housing Julienne Y. Joseph made her public debut since her appointment was announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week, describing for reverse mortgage professionals the importance she ascribes to the program given her firsthand experience with it as well as a desire to work with the reverse mortgage industry on an ongoing basis.

This is according to DAS Joseph herself, speaking during a keynote session at the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) Virtual Summer Meeting on Tuesday. Unbeknownst to NRMLA President Steve Irwin and many attendees of the event prior to her time speaking, DAS Joseph described how she had originated Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) loans herself as an originator in “a previous life,” she said.

This direct product experience, as well as an early interaction with a senior couple and their family who were helped by the HECM product has given DAS Joseph an appreciation for the HECM program and the role it can play in providing stability for seniors in retirement, she explained.

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An early experience with HECM

Having previously served as associate director of government housing programs & member engagement at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Joseph has had experience interacting with NRMLA and its membership before. However, she also expressed appreciation for the HECM product in her opening remarks, revealing that she has originated HECMs herself during her time working as a residential mortgage loan originator for companies including SunTrust and First Horizon National Corporation, according to work history on Joseph’s LinkedIn profile.

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DAS Julienne Joseph

“I understand the significance, not only as someone who has parents who are seniors, but also because I’ve originated [reverse mortgages] myself,” DAS Joseph told NRMLA attendees.

She then told attendees about an experience she had which opened her up to a scenario which illustrated for her how a HECM can impact seniors’ lives based on a career experience she had in the past.

“Earlier in my career, I heard about an African American couple residing in the Tidewater area of Virginia — which is where I’m from, I’m from the Virginia Beach area — and their home was paid for, but they needed a little extra boost to their retirement income,” she explained. “And to remain in their home and to continue to live independent self-sufficient lives, they needed to find a little bit of help.”

That help came in the form of a HECM, Joseph said, a solution arrived at after an initial consultation with a housing counselor. The couple qualified for the loan, applied for it and ultimately secured it, and Joseph saw the way their lives progressed after that point, she explained.

“Both of them were able to stay in their home and age in place during the golden years of their lives, which is what we all aspire to do,” she said. “But then when they passed, the outstanding HECM balance was repaid, and there was still a modest amount of equity remaining that was passed on to their adult children. So in my opinion, this is what makes the HECM just a good option for seniors who can tap into the equity in their homes, to allow them to remain in [those homes].”

The illustrative scenario on current policy

Joseph then turned to current HECM affairs, describing how that scenario fits in line with the leadership at HUD and the White House in using government housing programs specifically to facilitate assistance for vulnerable populations, including seniors as well as people of color, she explained.

“In this case, it also checked off two of the [Biden] administration’s primary goals: the first being one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations, it helped continue to make home possible for the senior couple,” she said. “And then the second thing is it allowed them to pass on wealth to their children. That’s not the end. HUD continues making enhancements to the HECM program based in part on feedback from organizations such as [NRMLA], that helps many more seniors be able to age in place.”

Leadership at HUD including the Department’s Secretary, Marcia Fudge, have emphasized that HUD programs need to both work as intended, and work well, DAS Joseph said.

“[Our programs must remain] working efficiently, and they must work to achieve greater equity in homeownership for underserved groups,” Joseph said. “This includes those who are homeowners now but would have fewer options to stay in their homes without the HECM program. It is the cornerstone for why the HECM program exists. Aging in place has become even more important in the last year, as seniors seek to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19. There’s a full-time and full-team focus at HUD on making sure that millions who were struggling Because of COVID have the financial relief that they need.”

This includes the $10 billion homeowners assistance fund which is part of the recently-passed American Rescue Plan of 2021, and which HUD officials previously described for RMD as the most applicable form of relief in the legislation for reverse mortgage borrowers. In addition to disbursing funds under that legislation, HUD remains focused on preventing foreclosures on vulnerable populations wherever possible, including on seniors who are HECM borrowers, Joseph explained.’

“We’re also heavily engaged in providing as much relief as we can under our own authority,” she said. “And in our single family insurance programs, under the new administration, we’ve expanded and extended mortgage relief for both our forward mortgage program and the HECM program. The last thing that any of us want is for our seniors to lose their homes, because that’s devastating. We don’t want to see that happen to anyone, but especially our seniors during the pandemic, especially because they can’t make their tax and insurance payments. That’s not a good enough excuse for our seniors to be out of their homes.”

To reiterate the Department’s commitment to that mission, DAS Joseph reiterated for the reverse mortgage audience the availability of various reverse mortgage relief programs, including an extension to the foreclosure and eviction moratorium for borrowers with FHA- insured single family mortgages for an additional period through July 31, 2021, as well as a further extension of the start dates of the initial COVID-19 Forbearance and Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) Extension to provide additional COVID-19 Forbearance and HECM Extension for certain borrowers.

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