Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
May 22, 2019
President's Message I By David M. Dworkin
Dear Friend,

One of my favorite rom-com’s is the movie Groundhog Day, staring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, who play TV crewmembers assigned to cover the annual ritual involving the question of how many more weeks of winter remain if the groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania can see his shadow. Through some unexplained time loop, Bill wakes up every morning to the same day. After numerous failed attempts to get his day right, he ends up falling in love with Andie and they live happily ever after – at least through the credits, anyway.

Which brings us to housing finance reform, the Groundhog Day of housing policy! In the past several weeks, the White House has released a major memo calling for comprehensive housing finance reform, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria has given a series of speeches emphasizing his aggressive schedule for moving forward on recapitalizing and reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with an aim to releasing them from conservatorship, and NHC has been asked to consult with both Treasury and HUD on a path forward. We aren’t ready to roll the credits yet, but housing finance reform is clearly coming soon.

That means NHC and its members need to develop a clear and concise set of detailed proposals to ensure that housing finance reform results in a system that is “stronger, more resilient, and more equitable for American taxpayers and working families,” as Dr. Calabria said just earlier this week in a speech before the Mortgage Bankers Association on Monday. That resilience and equity was sorely missing during the financial crisis, when millions of Americans lost their homes, and the black homeownership rate fell to below the rate when housing segregation was legal in 1968. Young people of all races are also struggling to achieve the American Dream, and families of all ages are unable to find affordable rental housing they desperately need. One in five millennials still live at home with their parents, despite the strongest job market in generations. Last year, I said it was one in six, but it has gotten worse. Each year, we fail to build over 300,000 units of housing just to keep even with household formation, so the problem is not going to get better until we take bold action.

The good news is that policymakers in Washington are no longer proposing a risky redesign of our entire mortgage finance system. Instead, members of Congress and the administration are focused on how to reform Fannie and Freddie through administrative reform allowed under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and additional bipartisan improvements to the Act that will require the agreement of both House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Senate Banking and Urban Affairs Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). I am confident that we can get there. Much of the work we need to do is already in place.

Last month, a group of NHC members got together to discuss this important work and after the Gala, we will meet again to develop specific proposals to support affordable housing for single family homeownership and multifamily rental. Many of our members have developed a wide range of options, but no other organization has the breadth of experience as our collective intellectual capital and experience. NHC is the place where housers come to get things done. In the months ahead, we will be in the forefront of bipartisan housing finance reform, closing the minority homeownership gap and addressing the growing shortage in affordable housing.

David M. Dworkin
NHC President and CEO
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland
Calabria, Trump make comments on GSE reform

FHFA Director Mark Calabria made several public remarks over the past week on his efforts to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship. At a National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) conference last week, Dr. Calabria argued that he has the authority to enact GSE reform without Congress. In an interview with Politico last Friday, Dr. Calabria expanded on his vision for GSE reform, saying, “I think there are things that Congress should do, but I think there also has to be an urgency for me as a regulator.” And at an MBA conference on Monday, Dr. Calabria emphasized the need for the GSEs to recapitalize before being released from conservatorship. President Trump also made comments on GSE reform at the NAR conference last week, saying that “we have many geniuses looking at the issue.”
Craig Phillips leaves post at Treasury

Craig Phillips announced last week that he plans to depart the Treasury Department next month. Phillips played a central role in the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship. “He’s been a linchpin in all the major workstreams at Treasury,” NHC President and CEO David Dworkin told Politico. “It’s a really big loss, and it’s going to be critical that somebody fills the role with his level of expertise.” Phillips also generated some controversy last week when he indicated at an event at George Mason University that the GSEs’ affordable housing goals are not a top priority for the Trump administration.
House Financial Services Committee holds hearing on HUD

The House Financial Services Committee held an oversight hearing on HUD yesterday with Secretary Ben Carson testifying. At the hearing, Chairwoman Maxine Waters castigated Carson for several actions he has taken as Secretary, including what she described as his “cruel proposal” to end housing assistance for undocumented immigrants. Carson also faced fierce criticism last week after a Government Accountability Office report found that he broke the law by failing to report an order for a $31,561 dining table and an $8,000 dishwasher for his office.
Senators introduce legislation on ‘g-fees’

Last week, Senators David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee’s Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee, introduced legislation to regulate the usage of the GSEs’ guaranteed fees, or g-fees. The bill would prevent Congress from using hikes in g-fees to offset increases in federal spending. Both NAR and MBA expressed support for the bill, with NAR President John Smaby saying, “The National Association of REALTORS® commends Senators David Perdue and Bob Menendez for taking action to secure America’s housing finance system.”
NHC and Housing Colorado release Paycheck to Paycheck Colorado report

Last Thursday, NHC and Housing Colorado released a supplemental Paycheck to Paycheck report examining key workers’ ability to afford housing in six Colorado cities. The report comes in the wake of NHC’s release of its national 2018 Paycheck to Paycheck report and database, released last month, highlighting affordability challenges for workers in the construction industry. The Colorado report found that those in critical occupations like childcare workers cannot afford median rental or mortgage costs in any of the six cities examined.
NMHC launches housing affordability toolkit

The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) announced last week that it was launching a new Housing Affordability Toolkit to guide discussions of housing affordability. The toolkit includes an overview of national trends, examples of solutions toward greater affordability and case studies from around the country. In a statement, NMHC President Doug Bibby said, “There isn’t a universal solution to solving the affordability problem. It requires a multi-faceted approach, and I’m thrilled our Housing Affordability Toolkit will help communities, lawmakers and industry stakeholders nationwide explore various approaches.”
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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