Are reverse mortgages headed in reverse? Based on forthcoming federal rule changes for seniors who expect to apply for one, you might think so. But as a taxpayer, you might say bravo: Toughening up qualification standards — including such basics as checking applicants’ credit, income and cash flows — is a leap forward, long overdue.

The Federal Housing Administration, whose reverse mortgage program dominates the field, has just adopted guidelines tightening eligibility standards as part of an effort to avoid additional losses to government insurance funds.

The changes, which are scheduled to take effect in less than four months, come on top of earlier reductions in maximum financing amounts that have resulted in sharp declines in the numbers of new loans being made. Volume has plunged more than 50% in the last five years alone.

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