MBA Affordable Housing Partner Spotlight: Chrissi Rhea of Mortgage Investors Group

(One in a recurring series about MBA CONVERGENCE, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s
affordable housing initiative.)

Christine (Chrissi) Rhea, President/CEO of the Mortgage Investors Group (MIG), currently sits on MBA’s Board of Directors and is the immediate past Chair of MBA’s Residential Board of Governors (RESBOG). She continues to make strides to expand MBA’s advocacy efforts through her participation in MBA’s “Advocacy in August” campaign, and her contributions to the Mortgage Bankers Association Political Action Committee (MORPAC).

Rhea is also an active member of MBA’s Independent Mortgage Bankers Executive Council (IMBEC) and other committees. The Mortgage Bankers Association presented its annual Burton C. Wood Legislative Service Award to her in March at MBA’s 2024 National Advocacy Conference.

MBA Newslink: How did you get involved in mortgage banking? Why is housing affordability important to you?

Chrissi Rhea

Chrissi Rhea: When I got into the mortgage business in early 1985, I was a new, very green, loan officer. I realized quickly that first-time homebuyers needed my help the most or were most willing to listen to me wanting to share of all my newfound knowledge! I realized early on in my career that affordable housing availability was not being addressed to the many young people who had all the ingredients and qualifications to own a home, but without a great deal of assets.  

Affordable housing initiatives became my passion and helped form our company’s marketing plan and goal setting when we started MIG in 1989. As the company matured and grew, we knew we needed to also focus very heavily on other products and programs and although Conforming and Jumbo became a larger percentage of our production, we did not forget the need to continue educating the first-time homebuyers (and their realtors) of the opportunities available.  

We are proud to say we have been the number one lender for THDA (HFA in Tennessee) for over 20 years! Focusing on first-time homebuyers served us well through the years as they came back to us with their second purchase, or even sent their children to us. Now we are helping many with their downsizing as they age and their children are buying their own homes.

NewsLink: What role does MBA play in supporting affordable, equitable and sustainable housing?

Rhea: Without the MBA I do think we would have far fewer agency affordable housing products that are so needed in today’s environment. Another huge initiative of MBA is CONVERGENCE now located in three cities in the U.S.  

CONVERGENCE is focused on increasing minority homeownership and housing needs in Memphis, Columbus and Philadelphia. I see this great affordable housing initiative spreading to other cities across the nation. The “architect” of CONVERGENCE, MBA’s Steve O’Connor, also works closely with consumers, civil rights and affordable housing stakeholders across the U.S.

Steve then hears firsthand what the challenges are in this sector and then presents these needs to the MBA leadership. The MBA leadership and staff spend a great deal of time educating the agencies and FHFA Director about these dire needs in our communities across the nation. This process has been the backbone of many affordable housing initiatives we know today.

NewsLink: What programs or products is your company working on to advance affordable housing?

Rhea: Our hope is both agencies [Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] will expand their offerings for their affordable products and open the box further for low-, moderate- and median-income borrowers. 

Our biggest improvement in our initiative is our continued training on all affordable products for loan officers and processors. If the LO’s are not knowledgeable of the parameters for each product, it may cost MIG the loan as well as possibly costing the borrower money. We have trained our underwriters to also address any affordable product that has not been assessed on the loan if it will be a reduction in rates, price or MI for the borrower. 

We are also using the HMDA data to focus on finding underserved markets where affordable lending products would be a great service. Focusing in on these rural markets with an eye on income levels and areas with minority borrowers has been a continued initiative. A better concentration on this data will help us reach these borrowers in need of these products and allow us to obtain our goals in our affordable products offerings. 

We are also researching the availability of down payment assistance offerings without the local housing finance agency program to help first-time buyers who still need help with a downpayment. Most of these would fall in the affordable income parameters and still need help with a second or DPA of some kind.