Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
February 27, 2019
President's Message I By David M. Dworkin
Dear Friend,

It’s hard to believe that spring is only three weeks away. While I’m no groundhog, I’m willing to bet we may have more snow than flowers in March, but warmer temperatures and spring blossoms are coming, and that means NHC’s April convening, Solutions for Housing Communications is right around the corner. One of my favorite things about Washington, D.C. is that we have a great spring here. The entire city is loaded with tulips, cherry blossoms and empty boxes of Claritin (as an allergy sufferer, I’m here to tell you it’s worth it!) We hope that you will join us here for the only national convening designed for housing communicators focusing on day-to-day communication strategies and tactics for expanding awareness of the benefits of affordable housing and building support for affordable housing policies and other developments.

Breakout sessions not only address communications tools, but also trends housing communicators are faced with daily. Session topics range from digital media strategies to drive social change to communicating to funders and other stakeholders to how to best communicate the black homeownership decline and income disparities . As I have shared in previous member notes, the African-American homeownership rate is lower today than it was in 1968, which is a national tragedy. We can and should do better, and NHC will be working with our members throughout the year to leverage their experience and help develop strategies to close this unacceptable gap in homeownership. 

This will start with Solutions for Housing Communications. The dynamic speakers to bring these important topics to light include Bruce Johnson, WUSA9; Katy O’Donnell, Politico; Bridget Lowell, Urban Institute; Meghan Lynch, Rep. GK Butterfield’s communication director; Chase Kroll, Hogan Lovells and Cody Damon of Media Cause to name a few. Our communications team continues to think outside of the box for planning, content and overall logistics to ensure we are continually raising the bar for this one-of-a-kind event.  

The day offers learning, engaging and plenty of time to network with your colleagues in housing and beyond. You can still take advantage of the early bird rate closing on Feb. 28, 2019 and other details here for registration and sponsorship

This spring, I hope to see you there.  

David M. Dworkin
President and CEO
National Housing Conference
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland
Carson calls for elimination of restrictive zoning laws

In an address last Thursday at the National Association of Home Builders conference in Las Vegas, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said the agency would use grants to incentivize local officials to eliminate “archaic” zoning restrictions. “If we tell a local jurisdiction that the likelihood of them being a recipient of a significant grant is significantly increased if they get rid of the barriers, I think there will be a little more attention to that—and that’s what we’re going to be doing,” Carson said. The proposal, which would tie grants administered through the Community Development Block Grant program to local regulatory reform, would be a significant change in federal policy and has bipartisan support. 

As NHC President and CEO David Dworkin remarked, “Creating requirements for using federal money can be a blunt instrument, but there’s no question that we’ve got to address the barriers that exist in communities that talk about affordable housing but don’t actually build any.”
Calabria nomination advanced by Senate Banking Committee

The Senate Banking Committee voted yesterday to advance the nomination of Mark Calabria, President Trump’s appointee to lead the FHFA. At his hearing on Feb. 14, Calabria emphasized his commitment to continuing the GSEs’ goals of preserving the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and providing access to affordable housing. Calabria, who was approved 13-12 along party lines, must now be confirmed by the full Senate.
Mortgage rates continue their decline

Mortgage rates continued to fall according to new data by Freddie Mac, with the 30-year fixed-rate average now down to 4.35 percent. This marks the third consecutive week mortgage rates have declined. “Today’s news from Freddie Mac should give buyers some optimism this spring as mortgage rates remain at one-year lows,” Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale told The Washington Post. And according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, weekly mortgage applications reflected these lower rates, rising 3.6 percent. However, another report last week from LendingTree revealed that the share of borrowers with interest rates under 5 percent declined by 5 percent.
New reports show homes sales fell sharply in January

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), existing home sales fell sharply in January to a three-year low. Sales dropped 1.2 percent to an annual rate of 4.94 million, which was the lowest level since November 2015. Similarly, new data from Redfin showed that new home sales were down 8 percent in January, despite more homes being on the market. Slow sales could help buyers, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun: “Moderating home prices combined with gains in household income will boost housing affordability, bringing more buyers to the market in the coming months.” These reports of lower home sales come as a new Realtor.com report shows that millennials have finally surpassed older generations in having the largest share of loan originations by dollar volume.
State officials write op-ed about Opportunity Zones

Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor, Utah Office of Economic Development Executive Director Vale Hale and Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Don Pierson jointly wrote an op-ed in The Hill calling for recently proposed regulations to the Opportunity Zones program to facilitate investment in communities and foster economic development. The op-ed comes after a hearing two weeks ago, where IRS officials and other stakeholders debated the proposed regulations. Also last week, the New York Times published a big report on Wall Street firms aiming to cash in on the Opportunity Zones, and Vice President Mike Pence touted the program during a visit to South Carolina.
Member Highlight
LISC and Citi Foundation award 40 nonprofits funding to provide job training for 10k workers 

by Andrea Nesby

On Feb. 20, NHC Gold member Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Citi Foundation announced 40 community-based nonprofits to receive funding to help provide 10,000 displaced workers with the training and support they need to compete for jobs in health care, transportation, technology and construction. The nonprofits include Focus: HOPE in Detroit, Michigan; Volunteers of America Texas in Houston, Texas; Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles, California; The ProMedica Ebeid Institute in Toledo, Ohio and more .

The initiative is part of LISC’s Bridges to Career Opportunities program, which was first piloted in 2013.

“The Bridges program is a proven resource that has already helped thousands of families raise their standards of living,” said Maurice A. Jones, LISC president and CEO in a news release. “Our partnership with the Citi Foundation will help scale up that impact, knitting together significant support for skills development and jobs with other financial, health and housing services that improve overall quality of life.”

The Citi Foundation’s investment in LISC’s Bridges program builds on a decades-long relationship between the Foundation and LISC.
FHA expands LIHTC financing program

HUD announced last week that the FHA will expand a pilot program that streamlines FHA mortgage insurance applications for LIHTC projects. The program, which began in 2012, will be expanded to support “new construction and substantial rehabilitation.” “Today, we take another important step to stimulate capital investment in affordable housing at a time when we need affordable housing more than ever,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
Register for the March Restoring Neighborhoods webinar 

Join NHC on March 13 from 3-4 p.m. EDT for a webinar presentation from Frank Relihan, senior vice president of NorthMarq Capital, who will discuss The Conway Center. Owned and operated by the nonprofit So Others Might Eat, the recently completed project provides supportive and transitional housing and services to homeless individuals and at-risk families. The Conway Center was a finalist for the Urban Land Institute’s 2018 Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award. Register 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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