Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington | By Luke Villalobos
NHC joins housing stakeholders to call for President's Council on Housing Affordability

A group of more than 40 housing organizations including NHC, called on President Biden to create a President’s Council on Housing Affordability in a letter sent Wednesday, citing rapid housing cost increases they said are a major contributor to inflation. The groups argued that an executive branch council could help ease housing price inflation, noting that the causes of the current housing crisis are multifaceted and more than a decade in the making.
Federal Reserve Board of Governors Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that he would attempt to head off accelerating inflation by proposing a quarter-percentage point rate hike later this month. However, housing groups cautioned that conventional anti-inflation tools like interest rate hikes would not ease housing prices and might even cause them to rise more quickly. "Higher interest rates will also curtail much-needed homebuilding, development, and preservation for housing of all types, adding to the supply shortage and undercutting efforts to reduce costs," they said.
The groups proposed that the council be comprised of officials from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Treasury and Veterans Affairs, as well as representatives from external stakeholder organizations. In addition to NHC, signatories included organizations representing the full spectrum of the housing industry, from finance and real estate to low-income housing and anti-discrimination organizations. 
Affordable housing funding increased in omnibus spending bill

Lawmakers reached a deal on a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package on Wednesday, two days before funding for the federal government was set to expire. The package funds the federal government through September and includes significant increases in funding for several affordable housing programs. 
The bulk of the increase in housing funding comes in a $4 billion increase in HUD funding, pushing the agency’s annual budget above $50 billion. The HUD funding provides $1.6 billion more for tenant-based rental assistance than last year’s appropriations bill, including funding for an estimated 25,000 additional housing vouchers. It also expands funding for the Community Development Fund by $1.3 billion and increases appropriations for public housing, project-based rental assistance, homeless assistance grants, HOME, and several other programs with an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars for each program.
In addition to the funding for HUD programs, the package provides $295 million for the Treasury Department’s CDFI Fund, a $25 million increase over last year. It also increases funding for several rural housing programs at USDA, including the Section 521 rental assistance program, Section 542 rural housing voucher program, and Section 515 rental housing program.
HUD awards $72 million for tribal COVID-19 relief and fair housing enforcement

HUD announced two major disbursements of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds this week, one for relief in tribal communities and another for fair housing organizations.
The relief for tribal communities, announced Friday, takes the form of nearly $70 million in Indian Community Development Block Grants appropriated under ARP. The funds will be distributed to 49 tribes and tribal housing authorities for assistance to members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and development of community facilities.
The funds for fair housing organizations in the form of grants totaling $2.4 million for 11 fair housing organizations across the country help fight housing discrimination related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be distributed to the fair housing organizations to compensate victims of housing discrimination and support the organizations' anti-discrimination activities.
FHA ramps up flood insurance disclosure requirements

FHA announced Wednesday that it would begin to require mortgagees to disclose whether FHA-insured properties they hold are in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and, if so, to provide details about the flood insurance policies covering the properties. Mortgagees whose properties are not in an SFHA will be required to provide documentation verifying they are not in an SFHA.
FHA said that the new requirements would allow the agency to better analyze data on properties in flood zones. The new requirements will go into effect on April 11.
Chart of the week
Chart of the week: Cities with more single-family zoning exclude low-income residents

report from the University of California Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute finds household incomes in cities that are members of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) rise with the share of land zoned exclusively for single-family homes. The report's authors say that this is evidence of restrictive zoning's exclusionary effect, as cities with more single-family zoning restrict the supply of housing, "making residential property more expensive so that lower-income people are unable to afford to live in such jurisdictions.”
What we're reading
Multi-Housing News covers NHC’s recent webinar on shared equity programs, which can help reduce class and racial disparities by allowing participants to build wealth without needing to qualify for homeownership. The article notes that resident-owned manufactured housing communities are the most common form of shared equity housing, but that as housing costs in rural communities rise, they are at increased risk of being displaced.
Slate essay reexamines the late 1990s cartoon Hey Arnold!, which it says portrayed a community's struggle against government and state attempts to push out residents in the name of urban renewal. The cartoon depicts a group of children and their families living in a working-class neighborhood whose limited space is contested by residents and outsiders looking to profit from it. For the essay's author, the show recalls the negative consequences of Bill Clinton-era policies like the Empowerment Zone program on similar, real-life neighborhoods. "Even in a cartoon world full of fun, imaginative, vibrant personalities (the kids are always scheming and, well, being kids in the midst of everything), an ominous specter of displacement hovers over its future,” she writes.
CityLab profiles a group of community activists in Dallas fighting to protect communities threatened by industrial pollution on the city's southeast side. The activists say that the city has long allowed industrial facilities to abut residential communities, increasing particulate pollution and disproportionately affecting low-income and minority residents. “Zoning has been a tool to weaponize land against communities of color," said one activist. "Now communities of color are saying, wait, this is a tool we can use to restore our neighborhoods."
The week ahead
Monday, March 14
NLIHC: National call on HoUsed, 2:30 – 4 p.m. ET
Tuesday, March 15
NLIHC: Legislative working group, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, March 16
Thursday, March 17
Friday, March 18
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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