Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington | By Luke Villalobos
FHFA releases revised 2022-2024 DTS plans

FHFA released the revised 2022-2024 Underserved Markets Plans for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) under the Duty to Serve (DTS) Program on Wednesday. The plans outline how the Enterprises will support manufactured housing, rural housing, and affordable housing preservation over the next two years, as required by the Duty to Serve (DTS) regulation under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. 
The new plans replace the original plans, released last May, which were widely criticized as insufficient to increase liquidity in the three DTS markets. A working group convened by NHC concluded that the plans “inadequately address the obstacles and liquidity needs of the underserved markets.” Specifically, NHC pointed to both Enterprises abandonment of the chattel manufactured housing and permanent supportive housing markets, their plans to scale back LIHTC investments, and their lack of preparation for issues in the single-family market caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. NHC also raised concerns about the lack of pilot programs in both plans, and argued that the Enterprises should be doing more to address issues of racial equity that contribute to the neglect of the DTS markets. Based on the concerns raised by NHC and other groups, FHFA ultimately objected to the plans and told the Enterprises to go back to the drawing board.
Executives at both Enterprises emphasized that the new plans reflect their commitment to adhering to the DTS regulation. Fannie Mae Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Jeffery R. Hayward said that “Fannie Mae's commitment to serve the needs of homeowners and renters in underserved markets has never been stronger.” And Freddie Mac President Mike Hutchins said that Freddie Mac “welcome[s] the opportunity to do more.” Housing groups are carefully reading the new plans to determine whether they have addressed concerns raised last year. 
CFPB to begin examining activities of nonbanks

CFPB announced Monday that it would invoke its as-yet-unused authority under the Dodd-Frank Act to examine activities that pose risks to consumers of nonbank financial companies. Prompted by what he said was the "rapid growth of consumer offerings by nonbanks," CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said that the agency would move quickly to "hold nonbanks to the same standards that banks are held to."
The move will allow CFPB to conduct supervisory examinations of nonbanks participating in mortgage, student debt, and payday loan markets, as well as larger nonbank players in consumer financial product markets. CFPB will also have authority to supervise any other nonbanks whose activities pose a significant risk to consumers. CFPB detailed its process for determining consumer risk in a procedural rule, also issued Monday.
Enterprise seeks signatories to letter calling for $4.2 billion for CDBG

Enterprise Community Partners is currently seeking signatories to a letter calling on Congress to appropriate $4.2 billion to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in FY 2023. The letter notes that funding for CDBG has fallen in recent years, dipping to $3.3 billion in FY 2022, despite the program’s return on investment for taxpayers of $3.64 for every dollar spent. CDBG “remains one of the most important resources for state and local governments and their partners to use in devising flexible solutions to meet community development needs,” the letter reads.

Organizations and individuals interested in signing on to the letter can do so via a Google Form created by Enterprise, on which can be found the entire text of the letter.
USDA and HUD celebrate Earth Day with new climate initiatives

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $800 million in climate-smart infrastructure investments in honor of Earth Day last Friday. The funding will go to 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands to strengthen the health of communities and fund clean energy projects for people in disadvantaged communities. The funding comes as part of the Biden Administration's Building a Better America Rural Infrastructure Tour to advance equity in rural communities. $787 million will help agricultural producers, small business owners, and rural residents lower energy costs. The remaining $12 million will go toward disaster recovery in communities hit by severe weather events. 
“People in rural America are experiencing the impacts of climate change in many ways. This includes more severe droughts, more frequent wildfires, and more destructive and life-threatening storms,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “When we invest in infrastructure in rural communities, we are investing in our planet, and we’re also investing in the peace of mind families will have when kids are drinking clean and safe tap water in their homes. USDA is proud to celebrate Earth Day and the many ways we are addressing climate change and investing in locally driven solutions to bring safe water and renewable energy to people in rural areas everywhere.”
The same day, the HUD released a fact sheet outlining its efforts to tackle the climate crisis. HUD also announced support for a “Solar for All” program in Washington, D.C. that ensures residents of HUD-assisted properties can access the program without increasing their housing costs. 
Senate confirms Brainard as Fed Vice Chair

The Senate confirmed Lael Brainard as the next Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors on Tuesday, by a vote of 52-43. NHC commended the confirmation, having previously voiced support for President Biden’s nomination of Brainard for the position. 
"Governor Brainard is an experienced financial regulator with a deep understanding of how the Fed's actions impact communities across the country," said NHC President and CEO David Dworkin. "Governor Brainard's most important task as Vice Chair will be to combat inflation without unduly harming American families still coping with the economic impact of the pandemic." 
Dworkin also noted Brainard's work to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act, saying, "She has played an instrumental role moving the rulemaking process forward to finally fulfill the promise of this landmark anti-redlining law."
Chart of the week
Pandemic-era immigration restrictions contribute to construction supply woes

Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that the number of immigrants employed in the construction industry declined precipitously during the COVID-19 pandemic due to restrictions on international arrivals that essentially halted immigration. "As a result, the construction sector lost the immigrant population that helped to offset demographic aging and mass exits after the global financial crisis, just as housing activity started to surge to levels not seen since August 2006,” the researchers write. “Little wonder, then, that the construction labor market is so tight that firms have reported competitors visiting job sites to recruit high-skilled craftsmen.”
What we're reading
The New Yorker reports on the boom of wooden construction in Scandinavia, in which architects are using new technologies to construct fireproof timber skyscrapers, like Norway's 18-story Mjøstårnet tower. In addition to offering an aesthetic break from modern glass-and-steel construction, wooden buildings are also much greener, sequestering carbon rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, as most buildings do.
report from the Terner Center investigates the role of local institutional capacity in the distribution of federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds, finding that areas with less social safety net infrastructure before the pandemic struggled to distribute funds relative to the baseline. The report calls on the federal government to help build institutional capacity in areas that currently lack it, saying that "leaving it to states and localities to step in to maintain or extend this [...] infrastructure risks further exacerbating place-based disparities in capacity and resources to assist struggling households."
Architecture firm Larch Lab examines the potential for single-staircase apartment buildings to “help unlock more livable, affordable, low carbon, small lot development." The firm focuses on a particular sort of building, known as a Point Access Block, which allows for a greater diversity of units in the same building and better quality of life for residents relative to the single- or double-loaded corridor buildings that are the norm in North American cities.
The week ahead
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