Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington | By Brittany Webb
ERAP successes and challenges reviewed at NHC/HPN webinar

This week, NHC and the Housing Partnership Network (HPN) hosted a webinar exploring the pivotal role HPN members played in implementing the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Recent conversations showed a renewed focus on ERAP as housing groups begin reflecting on the program. Despite initial frustration during the program’s establishment, ERAP ultimately prevented the feared “eviction tsunami” once the federal COVID-19 eviction moratorium expired last year, a significant accomplishment that received little attention. As of July, approximately 7 million payments were made to renters at risk of eviction. Over 80% of this funding went to very low-income renters at or below 50% of the area median income.
NHC President and CEO David Dworkin opened the discussion with Robin Hughes, HPN President and CEO, reflecting on the role of housers and peer exchange during the pandemic to help keep people housed. “You saw the nonprofit sector and in particular the affordable housing sector taking that call to action and making sure that the residents we serve and the broader community remains as safe and healthy as we possibly can with our resources,” Hughes said.
A panel of nonprofit housing leaders followed with a discussion, including Julie Porter, President and CEO of DreamKey Partners; Peter Elkowitz, President and CEO of Long Island Housing Partnership; and Kyle Webster, General Counsel and VP of Housing for Action Housing. They offered insights into their own experiences building capacity and delivering the funding.
Webster discussed the initial setbacks Pennsylvania experienced in delivering ERAP at the state level. The issues led to Alleghany County deciding to pull out of the state program funded by the CARES Act and create their county-level program led by Action Housing. He noted the state program suffered from complications due to the size and scope of the program and that Action Housing offered the county the needed capacity for delivery that allowed for the county program to succeed.
Porter noted the ERAP portal and online application were vital for the success of Charlotte, N.C.’s program. She made clear there was no one to copy when creating these new systems. So, DreamKey had to be creative in its approach and leverage its operational systems to develop its delivery methods.
Another central theme was the need for partnerships across different organizations, both within the delivery system and the HPN network, for information sharing. Many residents in need of rental assistance didn’t believe the program was real. Porter spoke about the need to engage with recipients of ERA funds to spread the program through word of mouth to their neighbors. Peer-to-peer engagement was vital to increase applications from people who did not trust the program.
“We needed to be humble about the fact that we were failing people,” said Webster. “If we got too set on the thousands of households we were helping, which is great and worthy of celebration, we would drop the ball in terms of thinking about how can we better serve these individuals because programs like this historically have failed certain communities and we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.”
Fraud has been another topic of interest as delivery slows and hindsight sets in for ERAP programs. Some raised questions surrounding safe harbors for states and localities to help avoid lawsuits. “No good deed goes unpunished, and usually you expect a few lawsuits from these situations, but it does cost the agency some money…we wish that next time there would be some safe harbors for us,” said Elkowitz. According to the panelists, some applications could have gotten out faster if safe harbors were in place. Despite their best efforts, nonprofits are preparing to defend themselves against cases of fraud within the program. Fraud was also blamed for the initial slow delivery of funds since many fraudsters flooded application systems at the beginning of the programs and caused backups.
Funding is beginning to run out for many programs, and maintaining the built infrastructure is an opportunity that none take for granted. “The truth is, there’s going to come a day when we’re just out. And we’re worried,” said Porter. “We don’t want to go back to the status quo.” The White House seems to agree, as evidenced by last week’s summit. For housing advocates, ERA became a refreshing example of the federal government taking the importance of housing quite seriously in a direct and impactful way. Where we go from here will determine how important we continue to regard housing as a health, stability, and safety factor.
Special thanks to the Annie E. Casey Foundation for making this webinar possible and HPN for their work.
FHFA requires fair lending data

The FHFA announced Wednesday that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) will require servicers to maintain fair lending data. The Enterprises will now be expected to obtain and maintain this data and transfer it with servicing throughout the mortgage term, including data points on borrower age, race, ethnicity, gender, and preferred language. The announcement follows a May 2022 mandate of language preference collection.
“The need for collection and maintenance of quality fair lending data is a lesson learned from the foreclosure crisis and COVID-19 response,” said FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson. “Having fair lending data travel with servicing will help servicers do the important work of providing assistance to borrowers in need, helping to further a sustainable and equitable housing finance system.”​
The Enterprises must implement the change by March 1, 2023. NHC has advocated for data collection of race and ethnicity wherever possible to promote equitable housing outcomes. 
Ginnie Mae revises capital requirements for credit unions, HFAs

Last week, Ginnie Mae announced that it is amending its capital requirements for credit unions and state HFAs. The change means that Ginnie Mae will not impose further capital requirements on credit unions, will begin treating them more similar to banks, and HFAs will be entirely exempt from capital requirements. Changes will go into effect at the end of this year.
“These changes to our institution-wide capital requirements accomplish two things – they harmonize our program requirements with standards enforced by other federal entities, and they better reflect the unique financial status of state housing agencies,” said Ginnie Mae President Alanna McCargo. “This is important because credit unions and state housing finance agencies play critical roles in supporting community-based lending, particularly in underserved areas.”

HUD announces funding for Native American housing

HUD announced on Monday $221 million in competitive funding for housing and community development projects that benefit American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Of the total funding, HUD will award $129 million through the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Competitive Program for affordable housing activities that benefit low-income Native families. HUD will direct most of the funding to the construction of new housing projects, rehabilitation projects, acquisition of existing housing stock, and necessary infrastructure projects. The remaining $92 million will go to the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program for rehabilitation projects. The deadline for submitting applications to the IHBG Competitive Grant Program is Nov. 17, and the deadline for submitting to the ICDBG Grant Program is October 24.
On Tuesday, HUD announced another targeted effort of $840,000 to provide rental assistance and supportive services for Native American veterans through the Tribal HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (Tribal HUD-VASH) grant program. This program provides housing and supportive services to Native American veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Inflation Reduction Act passes Senate

The Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act on Sunday, leading the way for House consideration. The bill saw a 50/50 split in final votes, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote to pass the legislation. The House is expected to pass the $430 billion bill as-is and send the bill to President Biden for final signature.
The bill has a few housing provisions, primarily focused on green technology and climate resilience. It includes $1 billion for HUD-led energy and water efficiency grants, $9 billion in home energy rebate programs, $3 billion in Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants, $1 billion in incentivization for adopting energy codes, and changes to ensure that energy credits do not negatively impact the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.
NeighborWorks America Achieving Excellence Program open for applications

Are you intrigued by the possibilities of professional development that focuses an executive coach, a team of peers, and Harvard faculty on an organizational challenge that you identify?
The NeighborWorks Achieving Excellence Program, designed exclusively for senior college leaders of community-serving organizations, does just that. It’s an opportunity for you, along with 50 other qualified leaders selected from around the country, to take part in a 16-month performance program that focuses significant resources on a major challenge facing your team. You will transform your work, organization, and yourself through NeighborWorks America’s collaboration with Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. As a result, you’ll become even more performance-driven and outcome-focused. And the experience of past participants demonstrates that your community will reap significant benefits.
To decide if the program is right for you, see case studies and stories about past participants, and learn more about the details of this offering, visit us at NeighborWorks.org/AE. The application period closes on Sep. 16. 
Chart of the week
Urban Institute examines refinance rates

In a webinar titled The Push and Pull of Alternative Pathways to Affordable Homeownership, Urban Institute examined a series of affordable housing opportunities for homeownership. One such opportunity is manufactured housing, which can be adopted through manufactured home mortgages or chattel loans. Their research shows that despite higher expenses and difficulty to qualify, chattel loans enable greater minority homeownership than manufactured home mortgages. In addition, while lower than manufactured home mortgages and site-built home mortgages, refinance rates have even more profound disparities when broken down by race, with Black chattel loan borrowers representing only 1.7% of refinance activity. 
What we're reading
A press release from Fannie Mae shows consumer housing sentiment at its lowest level in a decade. The Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index decreased by two points in July, bringing it below 2011 levels. In addition, only 17% of surveyed consumers said it was a good time to buy a home, falling from a high of 76% in May.
An article by Affordable Housing Finance examines how trauma-informed design can be incorporated into supportive housing. Trauma-informed care principles help impart empowerment, autonomy, and collaboration into housing designs. Design choices such as entrances are discussed, noting that glass doors or windows with views inside a building might be important to individuals intimidated by new buildings, and showing quick exit opportunities can make them feel safer. Other design elements that contrast “institutionalized” appearances can help make spaces feel like homes for trauma victims.
An article in The Atlantic tells how housing supply issues have traveled from expected big city markets to unexpected markets across the US. Citing various challenges, including pandemic migration, lacking supply, and rising materials costs, the increased costs of homeownership soon translated into higher rents. The article highlights several local restrictions that only add to the supply problem, including zoning restrictions, parking mandates, and NIMBYism.

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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