Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
December 8, 2019
Guest Member Note I Rep. Debbie Dingell
Dear Friend,

A recognized national advocate for women and children, the Honorable Debbie Dingell has represented the 12th district of Michigan since 2015. Representative Dingell serves as the Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and sits on the Committees on Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources. I have had the honor of working with her on President Obama’s Detroit Revitalization Team, and on other community development issues in Southeastern Michigan. Whether in the Roosevelt Room of the White House or the community room of a public housing development, she is one of the most strategic, effective and impactful people I know. We were proud to have her attend our Solutions for Affordable Housing’s Advocacy Breakfast on Capitol Hill and present her remarks here as our weekly member note. -David

When I took over the GM Foundation, we were very traditional and basically supported every executive’s favorite charity. I wanted to reshape our giving, and I knew we had a housing problem back then. I was trying to understand the neighborhoods in Detroit, and David was my teacher. Housing is so important. He’s taught me a lot and we’ve stayed together since then, fighting the good fight. 

I’m very glad to be here with you today. The issues you are talking about are so important, although it’s easy for them to get lost. We are still doing things on the Hill. You’d think the only thing we are talking about is impeachment, but we are actually doing a lot. One of the groups I’m working with a lot right now are veterans who are finding themselves homeless because they can’t find jobs. Homelessness is increasing, as we all know. The men and women David described in his remarks, are often working two jobs but are still at the poverty line. They’ve got kids, and I’m so tired of people taking shots at them when they are working their tails off. They’re often working harder than a lot of people I know. But they can’t afford their housing and have to make choices between putting food on the table or paying for day care to keep their jobs.

Thank you for all that you do, and I pray that your day on the Hill is successful. You know, I worked with David on the Detroit bankruptcy when he was talking about the Roosevelt Room in the White House and community groups. I’d much rather be meeting with a community group than in the Roosevelt Room. I am so proud of what is happening in Detroit. It is coming back, but those neighborhoods aren’t. Those vacant homes are still sitting there. When people are talking about what we should do, it is important that we support jobs, that we support business and do all of that, but hard-working men and women want a place they can afford that is in a safe neighborhood, where they can take care of their kids and give them an education in quality public schools. We have not been talking about that enough. It matters to me.

Low- and moderate-income homeowners did not cause the Great Recession. It happened in 2008 when I was still at GM. I said to President Obama at the time; people appreciate that we saved the auto industry, but that fear, of working in jobs with no pay raises, of making their mortgages, of ending up on the street – that is still happening now, ten years after the Great Recession. They didn’t make a house of cards that was going to fail, they didn’t buy credit default swaps, and they didn’t make the risky trades on Wall Street. All they did was just what I talked about. They wanted to pursue the American Dream. They want to work hard, buy a house and start a family. 

News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland
Discussing strategies to solve housing's most pressing issues

We had an amazing 2019 Solutions for Affordable Housing convening last week on Dec. 3 & 4 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, we welcomed housing leaders from across the country for a day of engaging panel discussions on important affordable housing issues. Attendees participated in their chosen panel discussions, all six focused on finding concrete, actionable solutions to the most difficult problems we face in the housing sphere, from ending homelessness to closing the black homeownership gap to mitigating against the effects of climate change. The next day we took #HousingtotheHill to advocate for legislative action on the issues discussed on Tuesday. Advocacy Day kicked off with a breakfast in the Rayburn House Office Building and featured rousing remarks from Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). Following breakfast, attendees left to meet with congressional offices to discuss important housing issues that are impacting their community.

Thanks to everyone who made our 2019 Solutions for Affordable Housing convening and Advocacy Day a success!
FHFA announces maximum conforming loan limits for 2020

The FHFA recently announced it would increase the conforming loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in most of the U.S. to over $510,000, up from the current level of $484,350. For areas where 115 percent of the local median home value exceeds the baseline conforming loan limit, the maximum loan limit will be even higher, at $765,600. This is the fourth time in as many years that FHFA has increased the conforming loan limits for the GSEs. FHA also increased its loan limits for almost all of the U.S., as well as its maximum claim amount for reverse mortgages.
HUD issues Request for Information on eliminating barriers to affordable housing

HUD recently published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment on regulations and land use requirements that increase housing development costs. The RFI is part of the Trump administration’s recent push for regulatory reform for affordable housing, with HUD Secretary Ben Carson serving as the chair of the recently formed White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing. NHC recently participated in a roundtable discussion at the White House convened by the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing. The deadline for submitting comments in response to the RFI is Jan. 21, and those who are interested in submitting comments can do so at this link.
Congress holds more housing-related hearings

It was another busy week on Capitol Hill as House and Senate committees convened several hearings related to housing. On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on privatized military housing at which representatives from the military and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified about reports of substandard housing conditions for military members and their families. The hearing came after a GAO report released Tuesday found that the Defense Department is struggling to monitor the condition of privatized housing because of data anomalies. On Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, the House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee held oversight hearings on the financial regulators featuring testimony from Federal Reserve Board of Governors Vice Chairman Randal Quarles, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp . (FDIC) Chairman Jelena McWilliams, and National Credit Union Administration Chairman Rodney Hood. Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, who is expected to announce major changes in the Community Reinvestment Act later this week, was invited but did not attend either hearing.The issue of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) modernization came up at both hearings, with members of both committees, including House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, expressing concerns that the regulators would water down CRA, as well as concerns with the prospect of a CRA overhaul without the Federal Reserve on board. There were two additional housing-related hearings held by the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday: a full committee hearing on financial stability featuring Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and a Housing, Community Development, and Insurance Subcommittee hearing featuring testimony on FHA and its impact on homeownership featuring FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery.
States, cities push for new tenant protection measures

A hoard of local governments in recent weeks have introduced or passed measures to protect tenants from eviction and other threats. These local actions have been most concentrated in California, where a new rent control ordinance will go into effect Jan. 1, causing some cities to worry that landlords will try to evict tenants before then. San Jose has instituted new fines for landlords that violate tenant protections, Los Angeles County expanded rent control to unincorporated areas, Santa Cruz councilmembers are trying to outlaw discrimination against voucher holders, and a grand total of over 30 local governments in California have approved anti-eviction measures in recent weeks. But the recent tenant protection efforts aren’t limited to California. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law a new suite of tenant protections, Michigan lawmakers introduced legislation to outlaw source of income discrimination, Spokane councilmembers are attempting to pass an anti-eviction measure, the San Antonio City Council is piloting a right to counsel program for renters facing eviction, Minneapolis councilmembers are debating giving tenants the chance to purchase rental properties, and the Kansas City Council is debating a new tenants bill of rights.
Democrats criticize HUD for Puerto Rico disaster aid delay

A group of House Democrats held a press conference on Thursday blasting HUD for ignoring a statutory deadline to issue a notice in the Federal Register explaining how Puerto Rico can use $8.2 billion in disaster relief aid. “The Trump administration is continuing to treat Puerto Ricans like second-class citizens, and we won’t stand for it,” said House Appropriations Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Subcommittee Chairman David Price (D-N.C.) at the press conference. “We stood up today to draw attention to the implications of HUD illegally withholding billions in aid. As T-HUD Chairman, I will continue to press HUD to release this aid now.” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) also made remarks at the press conference, and Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued a supportive statement. HUD, meanwhile, recently announced the allocation of $2.3 billion in continuing aid for 19 states and territories recovering from disasters, including $278 million for Puerto Rico.
Trump taps controversial consultant to lead homelessness council

The Trump administration has selected Robert Marbut to lead the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness after pushing out the Council’s previous executive director, Matthew Doherty. Marbut, who formerly served as a consultant advising cities on how to reduce homelessness, is a controversial figure in the fight to end homelessness, having criticized the housing first model and advocated for cities not to feed individuals experiencing homelessness. Marbut is also an opponent of the criminalization of homelessness, telling NextCity in a 2015 interview, “if you use ordinances to criminalize and you do not provide alternative services, you do not provide correct engagement.” In a statement, Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) criticized Marbut’s selection, saying, “It is a problem that the Trump Administration’s designee to head the Interagency Council on Homelessness may believe that it’s more important to stop churches from providing food to homeless people than it is to find those people homes. If true, this is yet another example of this administration obstructing efforts to end homelessness in this country.” Doherty, meanwhile, is now a homelessness adviser to California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has criticized the Trump administration’s recent homelessness initiative. Homelessness continues to receive attention on Capitol Hill as well, with Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently introducing the Pathway to Stable and Affordable Housing for All Act, which aims to end homelessness within 10 years.
What we're reading
In an article published last week, the Detroit News found that almost one in four Detroit homeowners owes more in delinquent property taxes than they did three years ago, even with a program to help them get out of debt. The article revealed that the program has backfired in some cases, leading to thousands kept in a “payment plan purgatory that likely will lead to the loss of their homes without more help.” Read the article here.

In a white paper released on Tuesday, Freddie Mac published three case studies on how “unique financing structures” helped to build affordable housing in high-cost metro areas. The case studies, which examined affordable developments in Honolulu, San Jose and Portland, showcase solutions that can be replicated in other high-cost areas. Read the white paper here.

In an investigation produced in collaboration with ProPublica, the Connecticut Mirror examined the issue of why affordable housing in Connecticut is often built in low-opportunity areas. According to the investigation, of the 27,000 affordable housing units built in the state and financed by LIHTC since the mid-1980s, only 10 percent were built in prosperous towns. Read the full investigation here.
Chart of the Week
The number of single-family neighborhoods has grown by almost 40 percent since 1990

In a recent report published by the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation, researchers found that, among the 100 largest metro areas, the number of single-family tracts has increased dramatically while the number of tracts with mixed housing stock has declined. According to the report, these single-family neighborhoods score high on opportunity indicators, but are largely out of reach for renters, since they contain less than 10 percent of the rental housing stock in major metro areas.
The week ahead
Monday, December 9
·          2019 NeighborWorks Training Institute, Dec. 9-13

Tuesday, December 10
·          2019 HADA Seminar and Outing, Dec. 10-11
·          ULI Washington Annual Holiday Luncheon, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, December 11

Thursday, December 12
·          CohnReznick webinar on LIHTC property performance, 12-1 p.m.

Friday, December 13
·          Brookings India panel discussion on housing and externalities, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. IST
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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