The Federal Housing Administration is making it harder for consumers with blemishes on their credit to get mortgages, potentially cutting the ranks for future homebuyers. The FHA raised credit standards to cull borrowers who pose a higher risk of default and those who may be trying to hide bad debt. The move is part of a broader effort to shore up the FHA’s dwindling reserves, which have been depleted by rising delinquencies.

Christopher J. Willis, a litigator at Ballard Spahr and member of the firm’s Consumer Financial Services and Mortgage Banking Groups, says he was taken aback by the agency’s decision to adopt a policy making it harder for borrowers to get loans.

“This will reduce FHA loan volume and create more compliance problems for originators,” Mr. Willis said. “It seems to have the impact of inducing consumers to choose between getting FHA approval for a loan and paying off the debt they owe. We likely won’t see a surge in the payment of old debts, because the more likely scenario is they just won’t get a mortgage.”