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Language Access


The Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) 2018 Scorecard for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Common Securitization Solutions requires the Enterprises to continue to support access to credit for mortgage-ready borrowers with limited English proficiency (LEP), including finalizing a multi-year language access plan and beginning plan implementation.  The Language Access Multi-Year Plan (May 2018) was developed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in conjunction with FHFA based on research and testing conducted in 2017 (described below) to identify major obstacles for LEP borrowers in accessing mortgage credit and to analyze potential solutions.  Key milestones include:

  • Clearinghouse:  Create an online clearinghouse to provide a centralized collection of resources to assist lenders, servicers, and housing counselors in serving LEP borrowers.  Future versions will be designed for use by LEP borrowers.
  • Language Access Working Group:  Establish a language access working group as a forum for representatives from the housing industry and consumer organizations to provide FHFA and the Enterprises their insights, commentary, and experiences related to serving LEP borrowers.
  • Glossaries:  Develop translated glossaries that will play a foundational role for improving language access by establishing common terminology that will facilitate standardized translations for all other documents.
  • Disclosure:  Develop a translated disclosure available for use by lenders and servicers to explain that mortgage transactions are likely to be conducted in English, and that identification of a preferred language by the borrower does not mean that lenders or servicers are able to provide, or agree to provide, communications in the preferred language.
  • Language Access Line:  Develop and implement a language access line that enables borrowers to obtain assistance from housing counselors and others in their preferred language.

View the Plan

2016 - 2017 Language Access Activities of FHFA and the Enterprises
FHFA's 2017 Scorecard for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Common Securitization Solutions required the Enterprises to identify major obstacles for LEP borrowers in accessing mortgage credit, analyze potential solutions, and develop a multi-year plan to support improved access.  

As part of this research, in May 2017 FHFA requested public input on issues faced by LEP borrowers throughout the mortgage life cycle to better understand the experiences of these borrowers and the mortgage industry participants who serve them.  FHFA and the Enterprises also conducted outreach to industry and consumer groups on these issues. 

In addition, the Enterprises conducted interviews and focus groups with borrowers whose primary language was not English and with lenders and servicers.  These interviews and focus groups examined how limited English proficient borrowers engage in the mortgage process and how lenders and servicers engage with them.  Each round of testing was conducted by Kleimann Communication Group on behalf of the Enterprises.  Results from these interviews and focus groups are detailed in Kleimann's April 2017 report.

2016 and 2017 Testing:  In 2016 and 2017, the Enterprises completed with Kleimann Communications Group several rounds of testing of a language preference question on the Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA).  The test results were used by FHFA in deciding whether and how to include the language preference question on the URLA.

The July 2016 testing captured borrower and lender reactions to the URLA in general, the demographic questions on the form, and various forms of a question about language preference.  The September 2017 testing also assessed reactions of lenders and LEP borrowers to a preferred language question on the URLA.  These tests, conducted over two rounds, revealed important insights on how to ask about preferred language in a way that appropriately manages borrower expectations about receiving in-language services.  The testing also provided insight on lender and borrower preferences for the location of a question on the form.  Initial feedback showed increased borrower expectations for in-language resources upon viewing a version of the question and contrasted sharply with borrower expectations after reviewing the disclosure.  As a result, in the second round Kleimann also tested a revised version of the question that incorporated key language from the disclosure.  Borrowers and lenders felt the revised question more accurately set expectations.  The tests also revealed a preference by borrowers and lenders for placement of the question at the start of the URLA or at the end of Section 1a. Personal Information. 

Preferred Language Question: On October 20, 2017, FHFA announced that a borrower language preference question would be included on the redesigned URLA.  The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection issued a notice approving use of the redesigned URLA under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) on November 24, 2017.  The Enterprises published the redesigned URLA and supporting documents on December 19, 2017.

Request for Input

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News Release: Mortgage Translations Clearinghouse Launched to Help Borrowers with English Language Barriers (10/15/2018)

Comunicado de Prensa: Se lanza el Centro de Traducciones Hipotecarias como ayuda para los prestatarios con barreras en usar el inglés (10/15/2018)

Video: Introducing Mortgage Translations (10/15/2018) 

Mortgage Translations:  A New Clearinghouse to Support Limited English Proficient (LEP) Borrowers (10/15/2018)

Blog: Mortgage Translations Clearinghouse Aims to Assist Homebuyers in Their Language​(10/4/2018)

Language Access Multi-Year Plan (5/10/2018)

News Release: Preferred Language Question to be Added to the Redesigned Uniform Residential Loan Application (10/20/2017)

Comunicado de Prensa: Pregunta sobre el lenguaje de preferencia será añadida a la solicitud rediseñada del Préstamo Hipotecario Residencial Uniforme (10/20/2017)

Preferred Language Question for the Uniform Residential Loan Application (10/20/2017)

Preferred Language Consumer Testing Briefing (September 2017 Testing) - Conducted by Kleimann Communication Group (10/20/2017)

FHFA Reopens and Extends Deadline to September 1 on RFI to Improve Access to Credit for Qualified Mortgage Borrowers with Limited English Proficiency (8/4/2017)

Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA) Round 7 Consumer Testing Briefing (July 2016) - Conducted by Kleimann Communication Group (8/4/2017)

FHFA Extends Deadline to July 31 on Request for Input to Improve Access to Credit for Qualified Mortgage Borrowers with Limited English Proficiency (6/29/2017)

Language Access for Limited English Proficiency Borrowers: Final Report - Conducted by Kleimann Communication Group for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (April 2017) (6/14/2017)

FHFA Issues Request for Input to Improve Access to Credit for Qualified Mortgage Borrowers with Limited English Proficiency (5/25/2017)​​​

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