Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
July 10, 2019
President's Message I By David M. Dworkin
Dear Friend,

This month, NHC has formally begun the long, hard effort to draft a national housing act for the 21 st century. We have been building awareness and support for the concept, but now we are putting pen to paper under the leadership of five sub-groups that will develop recommendations on legislation to address the shortage of affordable homeownership opportunities, the lack of affordable rental housing, ending homelessness, climate impact, and community development. If you are an NHC member and are interested in participating in one or more of these working groups, please contact Tristan Breaux to sign up and we will include you in our scheduling notices.

We’ve written about the importance of a national housing act for the 21 st century, most recently in my op-ed in The Hill. That was the easy part. But as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently said about Congressional leadership, “we have a responsibility to get something done, which is different from advocacy. We have to have a solution…” I couldn’t agree more. Our process will start with our members offering suggestions on how we can modernize the 50-year-old infrastructure of our housing economy so that home builders can build more of the homes we need the most, lenders can make more loans to those currently underserved, and housing organizations can be more effective and efficient in serving their constituents. We also need to be sure that we aren’t wasting precious resources when we respond to the impact of our changing climate by treating the 500-year flood like a 500-year occurrence when in fact it is happening every few years.

We are not new to this process, but it has been a while. NHC led similar successful efforts in 1933-1937, culminating with the passage of the 1937 Housing Act; in 1946-1949, when we wrote the 1949 National Housing Act; and in 1961-1968, which led to the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965 and signing of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. We also worked closely with the NAACP and the National Urban League to support their efforts to enact the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

This is our opportunity – your opportunity – to once again be a part of history in the making. We often say that NHC is only as strong as our members, and this has never been truer than right now. We hope that you will join us in the effort, and if you are not currently a member, join us to be a part of this endeavor. Together, we can do so much more than any of us can do alone!
David M. Dworkin
NHC President and CEO
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland
Kamala Harris unveils $100 billion black homeownership plan

California Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris unveiled a $100 billion plan to close the racial disparity in homeownership rates last weekend at the Essence Festival in New Orleans. The plan would provide down payment and closing cost assistance of up to $25,000 to people in historically red-lined communities. “A typical black family has just $10 of wealth for every $100 held by a white family,” Harris said at the festival. “So we must right that wrong and, after generations of discrimination, give black families a real shot at homeownership—historically one of the most powerful drivers of wealth in our country.” Harris also called for stronger laws to guard against housing discrimination and changes to the way credit scores are calculated.
Wells Fargo survey reveals perceptions of homeownership

According to a survey released yesterday by Wells Fargo, many consumers are willing to take steps such as taking a side job and cutting expenses to afford a home. Highlights from the survey’s findings include that nearly half of Americans who are currently saving to buy a home are pursuing extra sources of income outside their primary job, and 78 percent and 74 percent of non-homeowners, respectively, would be willing to accept their second choice of a city or buy a smaller home in order to afford it. The biggest barrier to homeownership, according to the survey, is down payment costs, with 27 percent of respondents overall reporting down payment costs as prohibitive and 38 percent of millennials doing so.
Study shows continuing racial discrimination in mortgage lending

Black applicants are twice as likely as their white peers to be denied a mortgage, even after controlling for income, according to a recent survey released by Clever.com. The study found that this disparity is worst in the South, where 89 percent of white applicants are approved compared to 76 percent of black applicants when controlling for income. The study’s author, Eylul Tekin, also noted that the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data which she used for her analysis is “alarmingly sparse,” with over half of black applicants having no reason listed for their mortgage being denied.
HUD announces $2.3 billion in grants for homeless programs

Last week, HUD announced it is making a record $2.3 billion available for local homeless assistance programs across the nation. The grants are part of HUD’s Continuum of Care grant competition to encourage communities to pursue evidence-based approaches to end veteran, chronic, family, and youth homelessness. This announcement comes in the wake of comments President Trump made about homelessness in a Fox News interview in which he said that homelessness is a recent issue and implied that he purged the homeless population in D.C. NPR also examined the issue of rural homelessness in an in-depth article posted last week.
New York Times editorializes in favor of eliminating local barriers to construction

The New York Times published an editorial on Sunday praising the plans put forward by several Democratic presidential candidates to increase housing construction by eliminating local barriers. Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro have all published housing platforms that would incentivize local governments to allow more development. The Trump administration has also demonstrated an interest in eliminating local regulations, with President Trump signing an executive order last month to create a White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.
July Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force meeting

July's Restoring Neighborhoods webinar is scheduled for July 24 at 2:00 pm EDT and will feature a joint presentation on disaster recovery and housing by Seana O'Shaughnessy, president and CEO of Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), and Sonya Acosta, policy analyst at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). The 2018 California Camp Fires killed at least 86 people, destroyed 14,000 homes and cost $8 billion in damages. Today, only 10 percent of the town of Paradise’s residents have returned. Seana and Sonya will discuss how Paradise and Butte County have recovered in the wake of the fires and efforts to improve natural disaster recovery at the federal level. Register here .
What we're reading
In an article for the Cleveland Scene , Akron Director of Planning and Urban Development Jason Segedy examined the way gentrification plays out in Rust Belt cities like Akron, Buddalo, Cleveland, and Detroit. Arguments against housing and commercial development in these cities out of fear of gentrification, Segedy argues, are counterproductive because they deny the cities much-needed investment. Read the full article here .

The Christian Science Monitor published an article last week on the housing shortage in rural America, a place few associate with the affordable housing crisis. According to the article, in some rural areas, especially those on the edge of metro areas, those with tourist attractions or amenities, and those with still-thriving commerce centers, there is a growing shortage of affordable homes. Read the full article here .

In an article published last Friday, the Denver Post examined the tiny home movement as a solution to the affordable housing crisis. In Colorado especially, a growing number of people are turning to tiny homes as a way to save money on housing and prioritize experiences over material goods. Read the full article here .
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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