The Federal Reserve Board on Monday invited consumers, consumer advocacy organizations, lenders and others to participate in four public hearings on the home equity lending market.

The Board is holding the hearings under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act, or HOEPA, which was enacted in 1994 in response to reports of predatory home equity lending practices in underserved markets, the Federal Reserve Board said.

The Board’s 2006 hearings will focus on three topics: (1) predatory lending and the impact of the HOEPA rules, and state and local anti-predatory lending laws on the subprime market; (2) nontraditional mortgage products such as interest-only mortgage loans and payment option adjustable rate mortgages, and reverse mortgages; and (3) how consumers select lenders and mortgage products in the subprime mortgage market.

HOEPA amended the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) to impose additional disclosure requirements and limits on certain high-cost, home-secured loans. HOEPA also directs the Board to periodically hold public hearings to examine the home equity lending market and the adequacy of existing regulatory and legislative provisions for protecting the interests of consumers, particularly low-income consumers, the Federal Reserve Board said.

The Board last held such hearings in 2000. Those hearings focused on ways the Board might use its rulemaking authority under HOEPA to address concerns about predatory lending. Following those hearings and the receipt of public comment, the Board amended the provisions of Regulation Z that implement HOEPA. The revisions took effect in October 2002.

The upcoming hearing discussions will serve four objectives, the Federal Reserve Board said.

First, the Board wishes to gather information on the effectiveness of the 2002 revisions to the HOEPA rules in protecting consumers and on the rules’ impact on the availability of credit in the higher-cost portion of the subprime market.

Second, the Board would like to gather information that will assist its pending review of Regulation Z, which implements TILA and HOEPA, the Fed said.

Third, the hearings will focus on matters for which the Board or other entities can develop educational materials to help consumers make informed choices about mortgage loans. Fourth, the hearings will identify mortgage lending market issues that require additional research.

The first hearing is scheduled for June 7, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 230 South LaSalle St., in Chicago, according to the Federal Reserve Board.

The second is scheduled for June 9, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Ten Independence Mall, in Philadelphia. The third is scheduled for June 16, at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 101 Market St., in San Francisco, and the fourth is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11, 2006, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1000 Peachtree St., N.E., in Atlanta.

As more information about the agenda for each hearing becomes available, it will be posted on the Board’s Web site, the Federal Reserve Board said.

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