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House gives FHA flexibility on reverse mortgages

WASHINGTON — The House has approved a bill giving the Federal Housing Administration the power to make quick fixes to its financially-troubled reverse mortgage program.

The measure lets the agency make changes to the program using mortgage letters rather than its usual rulemaking process that can take months or even years.

The FHA is struggling with $5 billion in reverse mortgage losses this year. Reverse mortgages allow people over 62 to borrow against their home equity, stay in their home and use the money for living expenses.

The agency plans to use its new authority to require financial assessments of borrowers applying for mortgages, limit large up-front payments to borrowers and to require borrowers to set up escrow accounts for taxes and insurance.