Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
Celebrating Women's History Month: Spotlight on Helen Alfred 

Commemorated around the globe, International Women's Day has been recognized on March 8th since 1911, and every U.S. President since 1995 has marked March as Women's History Month.
As it comes to a close, this is a great time to reflect on the role of women and their record of guidance at the forefront of complex situations and issues.

One of those important issues illustrating strong women’s leadership is in the arena of affordable housing. Founding NHC Secretary Helen Alfred understood how to leverage her power. Her efforts to get states to set up local housing authorities so that every American could live in a safe and healthy community in a good home are still a big part of the National Housing Coalition's mission today.

In her speech at NHC’s first convening in January of 1934, she noted the urgency of change and said, "We invite you to consider housing not only as an emergency construction program but as a permanent public service as well."

Echoes of her voice still ring true today, as we face inflationary pressures and a housing inventory shortage, stating, "On every hand, there is a demand for action. There is no time to lose. Many housing meetings and conferences are necessary."

We continue to follow her lead, pursuing the goals of federal policy that fuel the onward march to creating a better world, one where women demonstrate their leadership with uplifted voices for future women leaders.
News from Washington | By Luke Villalobos
Biden Administration releases President’s Budget for FY23

The Biden Administration released the President's Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year (FY23) on Monday, laying out his policy priorities and refocusing his current agenda. The $5.8 trillion budget request comes only weeks after the FY22 spending bill was passed, and it asks for particular funding to help with pandemic response, supply chain strengthening, homeownership promotion, climate resilience, and general affordable housing and community development activities. Many measures from Build Back Better (BBB), such as the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA) and the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA), were not explicitly included in the request. Housing programs, on the other hand, witnessed a rise in funding across the board. However, the White House indicated that it had built a placeholder offset for BBB programs into the request and that it still supported the passage of AHCIA and NHIA.

The FY23 budget includes $71.9 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a $6.2 billion increase from the FY22 level; $32.1 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers to fund additional 200,000 vouchers from current levels; $15 billion for Project-Based Rental Assistance, a $1 billion increase from FY22; a $10 billion increase for the Housing Credit over ten years; $8.8 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund, equal to FY22; $3.6 billion for Homelessness Assistance Grants, an increase of $400 million from FY22; $1.95 billion for the HOME program, an increase of $450 million from FY22; and $1.8 billion for rural housing programs, an increase of $256 million from FY22. 

Among the key housing provisions in the budget is the creation of a new mandatory funding program called the Housing Supply Fund. The $35 billion initiative would be run by HUD and provide grants to state and local housing finance organizations in order to boost the availability of affordable housing. As housing costs continue to rise, housers are becoming increasingly concerned about the availability of affordable housing. NHC and other organizations have identified increasing the affordable housing supply as a method of reducing overall inflation. The focus on housing supply throughout the President’s budget is encouraging, and advocates are hopeful that the Administration has heard the housing community and recognizes the importance of addressing the supply deficit.

In a news release earlier this week, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said, “This Budget tells the American people that the President, and our agency, view housing as a foundational platform to help address the most urgent challenges facing our nation. This Budget will help us meet our mission to provide security and stability for those who live on the outskirts of hope, advance opportunity and equity on behalf of marginalized communities, and meet the existential threats posed by natural disasters and climate change.”
Bennett, Murphy, and Warnock sign on to NHIA

Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) joined the list of lawmakers who have signed on to the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA), increasing the total number of senators who have signed on to the bill to 20.

In recent weeks, NHIA's popularity has grown among both parties. The bill now has 56 Democrats and 28 Republicans in support in the House and Senate. The bill's bipartisan support, according to Bennett, stems from its capacity to enhance housing supply and reinvigorate a variety of areas. “Lack of affordable housing is affecting every part of our state, from Denver to our mountain towns,” he said. “Our legislation would invest in our communities to help address this crisis and boost the supply of affordable housing, reinvigorating neighborhoods across Colorado and ensuring families can stay in their homes.”
HUD announces disaster assistance after Puerto Rico landslides

Due to a series of landslides in early February, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced disaster relief measures for seven communities west of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday. The announcement follows President Biden’s declaration of a major disaster in the region.

Foreclosure relief, extended mortgage insurance, expanded anti-discrimination measures, and administrative flexibility for local governments whose capacity has been harmed are among HUD's disaster relief initiatives.
OCC launches fourth regional REACh initiative in Dallas

The Office of Community Change (OCC) announced the launch of a new regional Roundtable for Economic Access and Change (REACh) project in Dallas on Monday. Following ones in Los Angeles, the District of Columbia, and Detroit, OCC has announced the fourth regional offshoot of Project REACh in recent months.

Last July, the OCC launched Project REACh, a collaboration between industry leaders and regulators aimed at increasing credit access in underprivileged regions, particularly for use in homeownership and small business expansion. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu expressed hope that the initiative would create collaboration among community organizations targeted at increasing credit access in Dallas. “While many obstacles to financial well-being and prosperity are national in scope, barriers can be unique at the local level,” he said. “We are excited to expand our efforts into the Dallas community, supporting local leaders, banks, and businesses as they discuss needs and work to address impediments to financial inclusion.”

Hsu will speak at the Black Homeownership Collaborative's Fair Housing Forum on April 19 about the OCC's efforts, notably Project REACh, to extend excellent, quality, and sustainable credit to underserved areas. Registration for the Forum is now open.
House committee discusses appraisal bias

On Tuesday, the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing on appraisal bias in the housing industry titled Devalued, Denied, and Disrespected: How Home Appraisal Bias and Discrimination Are Hurting Homeowners and Communities of Color. Lisa Rice, the President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, and a number of other appraisers were witnesses at the hearing, which took place on Wednesday. During Rice's testimony, the committee learned about how the issue of devaluation in home appraisals came about. Rice said that there has been an unsubstantiated link between race and risk.

The testimony noted the practice of Black homeowners called “whitewashing”, where a Black homeowner removes all evidence of their race from their home and ask a White friend to pose as the homeowner during an appraisal in order to compare the final home valuation. In one example from Indiana, an appraisal went from $110,000 to $259,000 after the second whitewashed appraisal. Some examples had even higher increases in valuation, up to a difference of $487,500 for one California family.  

Opportunities to correct these injustices are offered in the recently published Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (“PAVE”) Task Force Action Plan, an interagency plan to address the issue of racial bias in homeownership and help communities of color build intergenerational wealth and close the racial wealth gap.
Committee holds hearing on housing for older adults 

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing titled Affordability and Accessibility: Addressing the Housing Needs of America’s SeniorsDr. Jennifer Molinsky, Project Director of the Housing an Aging Society Program at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, and Shannon Guzman, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute, were among those who testified during the hearing. In her statement, Shannon Guzman of the AARP mentioned the urgent housing needs of older persons as well as the expanding population of older adults who will require age-friendly housing in the near future. She notes that while some seniors can enjoy their golden years because to retirement and other investments, many are on fixed incomes and live in poverty. The effects of the general affordable housing crisis are felt most acutely by disadvantaged groups, including older individuals. For these groups, affordable, accessible housing is critical to ensure that they live fulfilled and dignified lives. Dr. Jennifer Molinsky's statement echoed these sentiments, describing the issue as an increase in the need for acceptable housing. Guzman's statement also claimed that alternative housing alternatives such as house sharing and extra dwelling units enable older individuals age in place by allowing them to remain independent.
Chart of the week
Rising rates boost cost of $300,000 home more than $3,000 a year

tweet from Len Kiefer, Deputy Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, shows that the last time we had a 12-month increase in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate of at least 1.5% was January 2000. The chart published alongside the tweet shows a comparison of the two time periods, with the rate jump from December 2021 to March 2022 being more drastic than the jump from September 1999 to January 2000.
What we're reading
In Housing Perspectives, former Freddie Mac CEO Don Layton argues that the four government mortgage agencies that together finance 70% of single-family mortgages in the United States – Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs – should publish a unified report on their mission activities. According to Layton, such a report would “illustrate how well the government has utilized taxpayer support to reach the goal of successfully improving homeownership, especially for underserved groups of families,” and encourage agencies that sometimes compete with one another to work toward a common goal of increasing homeownership.

HousingWire’s Georgia Kromrei covers federal banking regulators’ role in allowing limited forms of redlining to continue through lax enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act and other anti-redlining laws. Noting that only 23% of banks’ single-family mortgage loans were distributed to people of color in 2018 and 2019, Kromrei argues that this practice meets the technical definition of redlining – the denial of credit to communities of color – but that banks continue to breeze through CRA exams and be approved for mergers.

The Bipartisan Policy Center held a fireside chat with Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Acting Director Sandra Thompson discussing FHFA’s future and how it can leverage its role to increase mortgage access and promote housing affordability while maintaining safety and soundness. NHC President and CEO David Dworkin asked the Acting Director specifically about the issue of cash out refinancing that contributed to the last housing crisis, leading to the discussion of appropriate guardrails for future policies.
The week ahead
The National Housing Conference is a diverse continuum of affordable housing stakeholders that convene and collaborate through dialogue, advocacy, research, and education, to develop equitable solutions that serve our common interest.
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