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Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington
CFPB reports on COVID-19 actions in congressional testimony

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Kathleen Kraninger appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs this week for the agency’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress . In her virtual testimony , Director Kraninger discussed the steps the agency has taken to limit the negative financial effects of the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis on American consumers. In recent months, CFPB has issued guidance on renter and homeowner relief available under the CARES Act and published a new mortgage and housing assistance page , as well as a “ centralized webpage with information on how consumers can protect their finances during the pandemic.” Director Kraninger said, “Authoritative government sources are critical conduits for the distribution of information to the public. As such, I am proud to note that as of this month, over 3.1 million users have accessed our educational web content in response to COVID-19.”

Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) commended Kraninger and her staff “for taking these steps to help consumers, families and small businesses as they continue to weather this global coronavirus pandemic.”

Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) implored CFPB to adopt stronger measures to address the growing racial wealth gap. “Black and brown Americans have never had their hard work pay off like it should and live every day with systematic racism that threatens their health and safety and their lives,” he said. “In a moment when Americans of all ages and backgrounds are demanding justice for our Black and brown neighbors and accountability for the corporations that exploit them, you have the power to actually do something about it.”
New report tracks declining homeownership 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently published an assessment of housing trends as part of a series of upcoming reports on access to homeownership. The first installment tracks homeownership from 2010 through 2018 across nine U.S. cities: Chicago; Cleveland; Columbia, South Carolina; Denver; Houston; Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. GAO’s assessment follows the decline in homeownership alongside the growth in total households and rise in average home prices. The report confirms the connection between the affordability and inventory crisis and narrowing access to homeownership.
GAO cautions that “growth in incomes at the national level has not kept pace with growth in house prices, potentially making homeownership difficult or out of reach for many Americans.” Even in the midst of the global pandemic, home prices have continued to rise , and now, with millions of Americans unemployed, the need for coordinated policies that support sustainable access to affordable housing has never been more evident. 
Senate confirms Dana Wade as next FHA commissioner

On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Dana Wade as the new Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner. Wade, who was originally nominated for the position in February, received some bipartisan support, although the vote was largely divided along party lines. Wade previously served in the same position in an acting capacity in 2017 and 2018, and has also held roles at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. “Dana has been a tremendous asset to the Department and the Administration throughout her years of service, and I have full confidence in her ability to successfully lead FHA,” said Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson in a statement following Wade’s confirmation.

Wade replaces Brian Montgomery who was confirmed to his new role as HUD Deputy Secretary in May. Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO Robert Broeksmit applauded the confirmation, saying “During her tenure at HUD, Ms. Wade has been an integral part in strengthening the various programs that provide affordable housing opportunities and assistance to homebuyers and renters.”
CFPB seeks input on preventing discrimination in the financial system

CFPB issued a Request for Information (RFI) on Tuesday seeking public input on how to “create a regulatory environment that expands access to credit and ensures that all consumers and communities are protected from discrimination in all aspects of a credit transaction.”

Although the CFPB’s revisit of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is welcomed, the RFI comes on the heels of HUD’s termination of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which provided enforcement mechanisms for the Fair Housing Act of 1968. NHC issued a statement condemning HUD’s action.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden weighed in on the need for proactive policies to close the racial wealth cap in a speech Tuesday, where he suggested expanding the role of the Federal Reserve to oversee racial inequality in the financial system and economy at large. 
FHFA adjusts DTS program in response to COVID-19

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced temporary adjustments to the Duty to Serve (DTS) program this week. Responding to the extraordinary circumstances brought on by COVID-19, FHFA will permit Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to complete an unlimited number of innovation modifications in 2020. In lieu of the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) submitting their 2021 – 2023 Underserved Markets Plans, their 2018 – 2020 plans will be extended by one year to cover 2021 activities and objectives. FHFA has instructed the GSEs to submit their modifications and proposed 2021 activities and objectives by Sep. 15, 2020. 
Earlier in the week, Democratic Reps. Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), and Housing, Community Development and Insurance Subcommittee Chair Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) sent a letter to FHFA urging Director Mark Calabria to pause the GSE capital rule. “Advocates are raising serious concerns that this rule would have harmful impacts on access to credit for underserved borrowers, including borrowers of color and lower income borrowers,” the letter states. 
Chart of the Week
Cost-burdened renters depend on added unemployment benefits

The Urban Institute conducted an analysis  of the impact of reducing or eliminating federal unemployment insurance on cost-burdened renters. An estimated 2.4 million of the 6 million renter households who have lost their job since the onset of the pandemic were already cost-burdened. With the expiration of the additional federal unemployment insurance, the number of unemployed cost-burdened renters could nearly double, reaching 4.6 million. As the chart illustrates, any amount of additional federal benefits has a significant impact on renter households and their ability to pay rent and other bills. 
What we're reading
The D.C. Council unanimously approved the city’s 2021 budget this week, which includes real estate tax incentives for affordable housing development in traditionally high-cost neighborhoods. Washington Business Journal examined the scope of the new tax abatement program, originally proposed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, including plans to convert office buildings into affordable residential units.
A new report from Brookings highlights potential strategies to expand affordable housing in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The immediate recovery period after the COVID-19 crisis could offer a unique opportunity to improve housing security by increasing the inventory of long-term affordable rental housing,” the report says. Authored by Paulette Goddard, director of New York University’s (NYU) Furman Center; Erin Graves from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; Katherine O’Regan, professor at NYU; and Jenny Scheutz from the Future of the Middle Class Initiative, the report suggests affordable housing providers leverage the down market to acquire new affordable housing units.
A recent article from Housingwire tracks Google’s progress on its affordable housing plan for the Bay Area, which launched in 2019. In the past year, the tech giant has invested in six projects, including the TECH Fund and the Launch Initiative . Just last month, Google pledged to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to the construction of affordable housing in its home state.  
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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