Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
September 2, 2019
Feature Message I By Walter P. Reuther
Dear Friend,

As the country celebrates Labor Day, it’s a time for people in the housing industry to celebrate the role of the American Labor Movement in championing affordable housing and home building. Labor unions became the nonprofit co-sponsors of hundreds of affordable housing developments across the country beginning in the 1920s and were charter members of the National Housing Conference when it was created in 1931. NHC is pleased to reprint an article written for us by labor icon Walter Reuther in our 1954 Annual Housing Yearbook. His message calling for construction of 2 million homes each year to fight a housing affordability crisis resonates as loudly today as it did then - when the U.S. population was a little over 150 million, less than half of what it is today. His prescient views are reprinted below. 
- - Ted Chandler, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust

I f America is to catch up with its tremendous back log of needed homes and keep pace with the rising demand, we must build about two million new housing units each year. The administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency has stated, however, that only about one million homes will be built in 1954. This would be 10 percent below the level of 1953 and 40 percent below our achievement in 1950.

The fact that we are currently building only half the homes this nation needs means that only higher income families are being satisfied as to their housing requirements. We are failing to develop a program to satisfy the housing needs of the majority of our families. With some exceptions, particularly for veterans, the housing policies of the federal government still do not permit millions of low and moderate income families, whose need for housing is the greatest, to buy or rent decent homes at a cost that is reasonably related to their ability to pay. This unserved potential market, of course, is made up primarily of working people and their families.

If we are to move forward in the effort to end slums and substandard housing conditions in the United States, there are several courses we must follow:

1. A tremendous expansion in home-building can be achieved by gearing our program to meet the needs of the moderate income group. Millions of American families earn too little to buy their own homes at present prices and conditions of payments, yet they earn too much to be eligible for public housing… The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) believes this can be done, without sacrificing the quality or adequacy of the home, by a combination of low initial payments and long-term loans at low interest rates under the government's insured mortgage program. No other way to do the job has been demonstrated.
2. For millions of additional families who are in the lowest income bracket, there is no hope of attaining decent shelter except through the provision of subsidy to meet the economic rent. This group, now largely existing in substandard dwellings and in slums, just does not have sufficient income to buy or rent private housing at prevailing costs. No method except subsidized public housing has been found to meet their minimum needs, despite continuous searching by leaders of both political parties and of the building industry.
3. One way to help moderate income families meet their housing need is for government to assist in forming cooperatives, as the government did for farmers in Rural Electrification Act (REA). Cooperative housing offers an opportunity to groups of citizens, who want to join with each other in a common effort, to obtain good housing at lower costs and with greater opportunities for good neighborhood development…
4. The obstacles to adequate housing for minority groups must be removed. Land must be made available. Mortgage money must be assured to minorities on the same basis as to all other Americans. Slums must be eradicated and replaced with wholesome, well planned neighborhoods. All this requires broad cooperation at all levels of government and by all elements in the community. No substantial housing progress can be achieved without solving the special problems of our minorities whose need is more urgent than those of any other group.

We must act promptly along all of these lines if Americans are to be decently housed. The alternative is to slide backward still further, adding each year to the already mountainous backlog of need. While we still hope the day will come when private builders will bring housing costs within the reach of the average wage earner, and the mortgage bankers will make loans available in the large quantities and at the liberal terms which our members require, we cannot wait for vague hopes to materialize. To meet the housing needs of today, we must have bold leadership, now.
Walter Reuther (1907-1970) was one of the most important and impactful labor leaders in American history. He led the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and was a close confidant of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. When Dr. Martin Luther King was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, it was Walter Reuther who, having read King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, raised $160,000 for the bail needed to release all the imprisoned protesters. He was a central player in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Fair Housing Act. 

Ted Chandler is Immediate Past Chair and ex-officio member of NHC’s Board of Governors, and managing director of regional operations for the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, a $6.4 billion fund that invests union pension fund capital in the construction of rental housing built with 100% union labor.
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland

NHC will release a new white paper on Tuesday on housing finance reform that calls for bipartisan cooperation between Congress and the Trump administration to complete housing finance reform leading to the release of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship. The nonpartisan paper was the product of the work of NHC’s GSE Reform Working Group, convened over the course of the past year, which included a diverse membership of low-income housing advocates, industry groups, and housing developers. The paper establishes seven conditions to guide administrative and statutory reform to ensure that the United States will have a well-functioning housing finance system that provides consistent, affordable credit to borrowers across the nation and through all parts of the credit cycle, while minimizing the risk of another taxpayer-funded bailout. The Trump administration’s housing finance reform plan, requested by President Trump in March, is expected to be released as soon as this week. In an article on the upcoming White House report, American Banker identified four key areas to look out for, with quotes from NHC President and CEO David Dworkin, as well as Andrew Jakabovics of Enterprise Community Partners and Robert Broeksmit of the Mortgage Bankers Association, both NHC members.
Sean Duffy announces resignation from Congress

In a statement posted to his Facebook page on Monday, Representative Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) announced he will resign from Congress on Sept. 23, citing family reasons. Duffy served as the Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance. Representative Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the Ranking Member of the full Financial Services Committee, said in a statement, “Sean has committed much of his life to public service and has been a leader on our Committee, first chairing the Oversight subcommittee and now working in the housing space. But his foremost calling has always been to his family and I have great respect for his decision to step away from his career during their time of need.”
Harvard Joint Center releases interactive map showing housing cost burden

On Tuesday, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies Research Assistant Sean Veal published an interactive map of the level of housing cost burden in metro areas across the country in a blog post. The map, which is part of the Joint Center’s 2019 State of the Nation’s Housing report, shows that renters have higher cost burdens than homeowners in almost every metro area in the country. Here in the D.C. metro area, for example, 45 percent of renters are cost-burdened—meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs—compared to 23 percent of homeowners.
Cities announce homelessness initiatives, face setbacks

As the homelessness crisis spreads across the country, initiatives were launched in several cities to combat the crisis and help those experiencing homelessness. San Jose recently built its first affordable housing development reserved for the formerly homeless. Tampa joined a national coalition of mayors and CEOs aimed at investing in initiatives to reduce homelessness. And in Colorado, a nonprofit is working to build tiny homes for homeless veterans and several efforts are underway to combat homelessness in suburban Denver. Yet, it was also a week of setbacks for efforts to help those experiencing homelessness. The New York Post found that a nonprofit homeless shelter had “wiring hazards,” busted plumbing and broken cribs. A pair of reports highlighted struggles for homeless outreach in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. And CNN, Curbed LA and M Live all took in-depth, unflinching looks into the struggles faced by people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles and Kalamazoo, Michigan, respectively.
Industry leaders discuss overlap of health and housing in Shelterforce interview

Joe Guadio, CEO of UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plan of Arizona, and David Adame, NHC Board of Governors member and president and CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) recently sat down with Shelterforce’s Harold Simon to discuss their 2016 housing and healthcare partnership. Through this partnership, which was featured in NHC’s 2016 How Housing Matters report, UnitedHealthCare loaned CPLC $22 million to acquire and rehabilitate 500 housing units in Phoenix, 20 percent of which were for low-income people with significant health care needs. In related news, The Hill published an op-ed last week by Brian Smedley of the National Collaborative for Health Equity and Rachel A. Davis of Prevention Institute on how housing discrimination impacts health. Also last week, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois announced a $1 million investment in housing and other supportive services for people experiencing homelessness in Chicago.
Chart of the Week
Months’ supply of for-sale homes stays low

The Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center released its August chartbook last week, with tables and charts on a host of mortgage and housing market-related data. One chart showed the historically low supply of for-sale housing, down to 4.2 months’ worth in July 2019, which according to the Urban Institute is below the healthier level of six months.
What we're reading
In a recent paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers from Yale, the University of Nebraska—Lincoln and the University of Chicago examined the association between evictions and poverty. Based on eviction records from Cook County over 17 years, the researchers conclude that evictions “negatively impact credit access and durable consumption for several years.” Read the full study here.

The latest episode of the Gimme Shelter podcast, published by CALmatters, discusses how Section 8 voucher holders fare in California. The podcast examines issues such as the low supply of vouchers, voucher discrimination by California landlords, and efforts to stop such discrimination. Listen to the podcast here.

Brigham Young University sociologist Jacob Rugh published a paper on Latinx homeownership and its implications on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in Florida. Rugh found that foreclosures and lagging home prices among Florida’s Latinx population may have helped Trump win the state. Read the full study here.

In a recent New York Times article, reporter Emily Badger examined the potential impact of the recent HUD proposal to raise the bar for housing discrimination claims on housing algorithms. Algorithms play an increasingly prominent role in the housing industry, from determining access to credit to targeting people for housing advertisements, and, as Badger writes, the new rule proposal could make it harder to fight discriminatory algorithms. Read the article here.

The Guardian took a look at the experience of children in D.C., who have been ranked the most underprivileged in the country. D.C. children, the article notes, face hardships from food insecurity to a lack of affordable housing. 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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