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Reports: Expect Obama’s Housing Finance Plan Soon

A declaration by President Barack Obama to end the war in Iraq helped drown other news Friday, including apparent moves by the White House to float a housing finance stimulus plan in the next few weeks. Some of the initiatives currently under wraps include an expansion of the Home Affordable Refinance Program and a selloff in mortgage-backed bonds by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to invite private-sector investment back into the housing finance system. The Federal Housing Finance Agency plays a major role for either proposal.

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Senate Passes Bill to Raise Conforming Loan Limits

A bill squeaked by the Senate Thursday that would reverse lower limits for conforming loans backed by the federal government and reinstate the $729,750 threshold until 2013. Lawmakers adopted the amendment to a federal spending measure by a count of 60 to 38, giving backers of the bill the supermajority needed to avoid wrangling over the issue. Multiple news outlets reported that Congress had allowed the higher limits for conforming loans to ease in October despite a massive lobbying effort by companies and trade groups.

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MBA: Multifamily Lending Jumps 31% Over 2010

More than 2,000 multifamily lenders financed five-unit apartment buildings to the tune of $68.8 billion over the course of 2010, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association report released Wednesday. The MBA pooled data from the MBA 2010 Commercial Multifamily Annual Origination Volume Rankings, which it said covered $119 billion in commercial and multifamily loans over the course of last year. The trade group found a 31-percent increase in total dollar volume for the multifamily lending industry.

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RE/MAX Founders Honored for $100M in Contributions

Gloom and doom seems all the rage for the housing market, but at least one real estate company bucked bad news with the announcement of a community achievement award. The Children's Miracle Network Hospital plans to recognize RE/MAX, LLC, founders Dave and Gail Liniger at an event Saturday for their role in inspiring more than $100 million in contributions from company personnel.

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Lawmaker Questions the 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage

Lawmakers called into doubt the role of the historic 30-year fixed-rate mortgage Thursday, with Senate committee witnesses alternately arguing for and against it. At issue: whether the benchmark loan, available since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, stabilizes the housing finance system or weakens it. Witnesses alternately upheld and criticized the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, with the former characterizing it a buttress of wealth for homeowners and the latter calling for more consumer choice and clarifying its role in the crisis.

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Mortgage Rates Remain Unchanged Amid Mixed News

Interest rates for mortgage loans hovered at around the same numbers this week seen last week, even while the construction sector celebrated with boons in starts and confidence. Freddie found the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage cresting at 4.11 percent, slightly down from 4.12 last week but not far from 4.21 percent seen during the same time last year. Bankrate.com disagreed with the mortgage giant by few turns, offering an increase from 4.21 percent to 4.37 percent this week.

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Bill Reintroduces Energy Costs to Underwriting Process

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle introduced a bill in the Senate that would require mortgage lenders to consider energy costs for borrowers when underwriting their federally insured loans. Sen. Michael Bennett and Sen. Johnny Isakson introduced the bill, titled the Sensible Accounting to Value Energy Act, as a way to restore energy cost calculations for government-backed mortgages. Sources in the know tell MReport that the bill could save billions for homeowners and create 83,000 jobs by 2012. A broad coalition backs the legislation.

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CFPB Appoints New Officer, Controversy Continues

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a new chief officer with the addition of Hubert H. Skip Humphrey III. Joining the CFPB as the head of its Office of Older Americans, Humphrey will now act as the bureau├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós lead advocate for the demographic.

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