Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
News from Washington | By Luke Villalobos
JPMC invests in closing Washington region's racial wealth gap

On Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) announced a new commitment of $75 million to help close the racial wealth gap in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The commitment of philanthropic capital and flexible, low-cost loans will flow to underserved communities throughout the region over the next five years. Impoverished areas of Washington and Baltimore are set to see $20 million from the commitment each, and the remaining $35 million will be distributed across Maryland and Virginia. In total, JPMC has now invested $125 million in underserved communities.
JPMC's announcement noted that the racial wealth gap in the Washington region was eight times greater than the national average before the COVID-19 pandemic. It further describes the lessons learned from its initial commitments, describing the vital components of regional collaboration, investment in women of color, intentional removal of embedded barriers, and investment in organizations that are “by and for” communities of color. 
“Business must do its part to help solve challenges facing the customers and communities it serves. Addressing inequities requires concerted and sustained efforts by public and private sector partners that seek to build wealth for Communities of Color. This new commitment, along with what we’ve learned from growing our business and community support here, will hopefully be a model for others to follow and help create meaningful, lasting, and equitable change in the region," said JPMC Vice Chairman Peter Scher. 
Cities conduct annual homeless PIT counts

Cities across the country are currently conducting annual Point-in-Time (PIT) counts of people experiencing homelessness. HUD typically requires Continuum of Care organizations to complete PIT counts during the last ten days of January to collect data on people experiencing homelessness. However, some cities have opted out of the count due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and others are choosing to postpone the count until February. 
Though PIT counts are an imperfect way to assess a city's homeless population, HUD and local governments rely on annual counts to provide data for local service providers, which in turn impacts funding. As the number of people experiencing homelessness continues to increase and the impact of the pandemic remains unclear, the count continues to be the most popular method for data collection. 
Ginnie Mae streamlines ALM documentation

Ginnie Mae announced last Friday that it would streamline documentation requirements for servicers participating in FHA’s Advanced Loan Modification (ALM) program. The new policy covers ALMs, including those initiated before the change was made, and allows servicers to skip recordation and title insurance requirements and submit only fully executed loan modification agreements to Ginnie Mae document custodians.
Ginnie Mae President Alanna McCargo said the move would make it easier for homeowners to move from forbearance to sustainable mortgages in the wake of the pandemic. “In order to fully stabilize the economy, servicers need as many tools as possible to help homeowners recover from the pandemic’s economic effects,” she said.
USDA invests in rural infrastructure

On Wednesday, USDA Rural Development announced a $1 billion investment in building and improving community facilities and infrastructure. The funding will increase access to healthcare, education, and public safety in rural communities by investing in healthcare facilities, community support centers, expanding public safety, promoting food access and education. 
Funding will go to the following programs: Community Facilities Direct Loans and Grants, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Technical Assistance Training Grants, Community Facilities Disaster Grants, and Economic Impact Initiative Grants. There are more than 100 defined types of qualified projects, and USDA has awarded funding in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. Local governments and nonprofits that serve rural communities with fewer than 20,000 residents are eligible for the funding.
HUD announces grants and funding opportunities

On Monday, HUD announced $51.4 million in housing counseling grants to 177 housing counseling agencies and intermediary organizations. The funding will help the HUD-approved agencies to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing by maintaining housing for families facing foreclosure and eviction, assisting with making informed housing decisions, and training housing counselors. 
On Wednesday, HUD also announced a funding opportunity for public housing agencies (PHAs) to apply for grants to conduct radon testing. The grants total $4 million and help PHAs conduct radon testing and mitigation in public housing units. 
HUD appoints new Housing Counseling Advisory Committee members

On Monday, HUD announced the appointment of four new members to the Housing Counseling Federal Advisory Committee. The committee, which was established to advise the Office of Housing Counseling, is now fully staffed at 12 members.
The newly appointed members are Gabe del Rio, President and CEO of Homeownership Council of America; Daniel Garcia, Vice President/Senior CRA Lending Officer of First Horizon Bank; Angie Liou, Executive Director of Asian Community Development Corporation; and Richard Verrillo, Director of Business Development at Navicore Solutions. Each will serve a three-year term. 
HUD extends support for foster youth

On Tuesday, HUD extended housing choice voucher assistance to eligible youth under the Family Unification Program (FUP). The new guidance adds 24 months to the FUP voucher for foster and formerly fostered youth, giving program participants 60 months of total voucher assistance.
The extension is intended to counter foster youth's increased risk of homelessness and allow them more time to advance their education and employment prospects.
Chart of the week
Chart of the week: Low-income renters struggle to afford food and healthcare

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ report on America’s Rental Housing reveals the extent to which high housing costs limit low-income households’ ability to pay for other expenses. According to the report, low-income renters spend 38% less on food and 70% less on healthcare than other renters, with especially severe health impacts for children and the elderly, impacts that were explored in detail during NHC’s recent webinar, Bridging the Gap Between Health and Housing.
What we're reading
Former Freddie Mac CEO Don Layton previews his new paper in Housing Perspectives on what it will take to sustainably increase the homeownership rate. Noting that the past 50 years of federal housing policy have failed to sustainably push the homeownership rate past 65%, Layton argues that “limited or technical initiatives will not succeed in materially raising it. Instead, it is necessary to think big and put real dollars behind the effort; in particular, a successful policy would target families who are well-positioned to move from rental to ownership, rather than just supporting homeownership broadly.”
Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons argues in Works in Progress that the causes of Ireland’s 2007 housing market crash – which was twice as severe as the United States’ crash in 2008 – are misunderstood. Instead of being caused by some malfunction of the laws of supply and demand, Lyons argues that the bubble was caused by an influx of mortgage credit and misguided tax credits that steered construction away from cities. Lyons warns that “failing to understand these basics [of supply and demand] will mean we are susceptible to making the same mistakes all over again.”
Bill McBride analyzes new housing price data from FHFA and the Case-Shiller National Index in CalculatedRisk. Though both indices show a slow deceleration in house price growth, McBride says that “we’d have to see a significant increase in inventory to sharply slow price increases, and that is why I’m focused on inventory!”
The week ahead
The National Housing Conference is a diverse continuum of affordable housing stakeholders that convene and collaborate through dialogue, advocacy, research, and education, to develop equitable solutions that serve our common interest.
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