Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
August 4, 2019
Feature Message I By Tristan Bréaux
Dear Friend,

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for NHC. Last week, David and I attended the 2020 Democratic presidential debates in Detroit, Michigan. While there was plenty of debate on issues like health care and immigration, the significant and growing housing affordability gap received little attention, as David discussed in his op-ed in the Detroit News, covered below. The sad fact is that millions of Americans watched the debate in a home that they can barely afford. Among them are grown children who have good jobs and still can’t afford a home of their own. In fact, one-in-five millennials still live at home with their parents, a crisis for them, their parents, and our country. Not watching the debate were more than half a million fellow Americans who are homeless, many of whom leave their car or tent in the morning, wash up in a bathroom and go to work.

During the first night of the debate, housing was raised by former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. The two of them eluded to the fact that the wealth gap in this country is impacted by the lack of affordable housing and the need to increase homeownership. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro also raised housing on the second night. Given the scope of the growing housing supply and affordability crisis, which we have discussed in more detail here and here, the issue served as little more than an underlining talking point in response to an unrelated question.

Regardless of who wins the presidency in 2020, he or she will have to address housing supply and affordability. In the neighborhoods around the Fox Theatre where the debates were held, a major American city is struggling to rebound from the impact of the 2009 financial crisis, as well as generations of disinvestment. These issues are not unique to Detroit. It is a major issue in cities and rural areas throughout the country. The lack of small dollar lending, the need to address the trust issue between the mortgage ready applicants and lenders, and skyrocketing student debt burden are major factors, among others. It is our hope that the work we have begun with our 235 members will elevate the debate among the candidates, who must lay out how they will address the issue that we all care so much about. We have 10 more debates to go. We must make them count.

At NHC, we are committed to working with everyone to advance the common goal of closing the homeownership gap. David and I also spent time with the senior leadership of the NAACP during their 110th National Convention in Detroit, Michigan, where we discussed the need for partnership and collaboration between our organizations. This is important to me, as someone who got started in advocacy as a high school student in the Youth & College Division of the NAACP under the mentorship of Dr. Hazel Dukes of New York. She has worked tirelessly to advance fair housing in my own neighborhood of Queens and all across the state of New York. 

I ended this week at the annual meeting of my fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi Incorporated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Among Black Greek letter organizations, information is often shared for the advancement of alumni and the communities where they live. When we talk about the dramatic collapse of the black homeownership rate in this country, we know that the role of the trusted advisor is critical to communicating to communities in need. NHC had the opportunity to raise this critical issue to over 50,000 members in attendance from around the world. We believe that the NAACP and Black Greek letter organizations will be critical components of this effort.

It will take all of us, working together and advocating for Americans most of whom we may never meet. This work is bigger than us and bigger than any one organization. We look forward to having all voices at the table to ensure that there’s a roof over that table. 
Tristan Bréaux
NHC Director of Policy and Advocacy
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland
HUD proposes to roll back housing discrimination rules

In response to reports on HUD’s proposal for a final rule on disparate impact, NHC member the National Fair Housing Alliance and its President and CEO Lisa Rice condemned HUD’s “attempt to obliterate a bedrock tool for fighting discrimination in housing. At a time when racial disparities in housing are stark, the racial wealth gap is growing, the African American homeownership rate has declined to historically low levels, and over four million instances of housing discrimination occur each year, it is critical to preserve and strengthen the tools we have to ensure that everyone is treated fairly in their search for housing.”

Politico reported last week that HUD is close to releasing a final rule to change the department’s 2013 disparate impact regulation. The proposal would add additional and extraordinary requirements, above what is required by well-established legal precedent, in order for plaintiffs to bring a case using disparate impact. It also provides defendants with new defenses to withstand a fair housing challenge. All told, fair housing advocates are concerned that the Trump administration’s proposed rule would make it virtually impossible to bring a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act.
Op-ed: “Democrats need to debate growing housing crisis”

NHC President and CEO David Dworkin wrote an op-ed in the Detroit News, where he shared the importance of addressing the plight of millions of qualified first-time homebuyers who can't find a home they can afford or cannot buy one that they can.

"A lack of affordable-home builders, labor shortages and higher prices due to growing protectionist trade policies make a bad situation worse,” he said. “It’s time candidates, and the journalists who cover them, bring this critical issue to the forefront."

Read the full op-ed here .
Fed announces interest rate cut

The Federal Reserve, as it was widely expected to do, announced it would cut interest rates at its meeting last week. The rate cut, of a quarter of a percentage point, was the first since the Fed’s decision to cut rates almost to zero in 2008 amidst the financial crisis. Meanwhile, mortgage rates remained low last week according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, likely in anticipation of the rate cut. Low mortgage rates have driven a “flurry of refinancing and an uptick in purchases,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
FHA to limit cash-out refinancing

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced on Thursday it will limit cash-out refinancing in its program. Borrowers will be able to pull cash out only when the new loan amounts to 80 percent of the value of the home or less, down from 85 percent. The agency also said the change, which will be effective for loans with case numbers assigned on or after Sep.1, 2019, aligns the FHA’s max LTV rules with those upheld by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In response to the move, NHC President and CEO David Dworkin shared: “Equity stripping devastated black wealth during the housing crisis and erased gains in black homeownership. It hurt millions of others as well. This is a good move and much overdue.”
Carson defends Trump in wake of Baltimore comments

HUD Secretary Ben Carson defended President Trump at a press conference on Wednesday after Trump attacked Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and described the city of Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Carson, who previously served as a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, said of the city, “there are problems, and we can’t sweep them under the rug.” Trump also mentioned the Opportunity Zones program during his Tweet storm about Baltimore, which as the Baltimore Sun reported, has a mixed track record in the city, given the controversy over how Baltimore’s Opportunity Zones were selected. One thing Trump did not mention in his tweets is the fact that the company his son-in-law Jared Kushner used to run is a major landlord in Baltimore and owns over a dozen apartment complexes that have been cited for code violations.
More Democratic candidates unveil housing plans 

Although housing received little mention during the two Democratic presidential debates in Detroit last week, several Democratic candidates unveiled housing-related policy platforms last week. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled his Douglass Plan for racial justice, which calls for, among other things, a new Homeownership Fund under HUD that would help cities establish a land bank to acquire and develop abandoned or foreclosed properties and give them to homesteaders. Washington Governor Jay Inslee, meanwhile, rolled out a climate justice plan, which involves increasing funding for the national Housing Trust Fund by $42 billion. Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced a plan for rural communities, which included expanding broadband access and increasing funding for the USDA Rural Development program. Finally, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed for CNN decrying the housing affordability crisis and calling for expanding the national Housing Trust Fund and increasing HUD’s homelessness assistance grants.
HUD approves redlining settlement

Last week, HUD approved a settlement between the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) and OneWest Bank over charges that the bank engaged in redlining in Los Angeles. OneWest, which was formerly owned by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, was alleged by CRC to have discriminated against black and Latino borrowers in its mortgage lending in and around Los Angeles. As part of the settlement, OneWest will pay $5 million to increase access to credit for borrowers in communities of color, $1.3 million for community outreach, and $1 million for grants to financial counseling and homelessness programs.
Lawmakers introduce disaster recovery legislation

Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) recently introduced the Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2019, the companion legislation to Representatives Al Green (D-Texas) and Ann Wagner’s (R-Mo.) bill in the House. The bill would permanently authorize the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program, which helps communities across the country recover in the wake of disasters. Just this past week, the Martinsburg Journal reported on the struggles of West Virginia’s efforts to re-house flood victims, while the Sacramento Bee reported on the disastrous effect that wildfires in rural California have had on the housing market there.
What we're reading
In a report released Wednesday, Redfin found that homeowners in mostly white neighborhoods accrued $70,000 more in home equity than those in mostly black neighborhoods between 2012 and 2018. This, according to the report, is a large factor in the widening wealth gap between white and black Americans. Read the full report here .

The Wall Street Journal examined the state of the housing market for young Americans in an in-depth article published last weekend. According to the article, homeownership rates for those under 35 have plummeted over the last decade, turning many would-be homeowners into renters. Read the article here .

The Post and Courier published an article on the struggle to keep privately owned affordable housing in Charleston affordable. The article found that hundreds of affordable units in the region are disappearing as rent restrictions tied to federal tax credits expire. Read the article here .
The week ahead
The National Housing Conference has been defending the American Home since 1931. We believe everyone in America should have equal opportunity to live in a quality, affordable home in a thriving community. NHC convenes and collaborates with our diverse membership and the broader housing and community development sectors to advance our policy, research and communications initiatives to effect positive change at the federal, state and local levels. Politically diverse and nonpartisan, NHC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
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