Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
December 12, 2018
President's Message I By David M. Dworkin

As reported in several news publications this week, President Trump is expected nominate Mark Calabria, Vice President Mike Pence's chief economist, to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) after the current Director Mel Watt’s term expires in less than a month. This is consistent with rumors I have heard from insiders for several weeks.

What does this mean for the future of housing? A lot. Leading FHFA may be the single most important job in the housing economy. It’s no surprise that placing Calabria was Vice President Pence’s big ask – with a lasting impact likely much longer than any White House Chief of Staff. Once confirmed, Calabria will have a five-year term that, like his predecessor, will extend well into a new term in the White House. As an independent regulator, he can only be removed for cause.

Calabria is a libertarian economist who has endorsed eliminating the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which has made sustainable homeownership possible for millions of Americans. He has endorsed placing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into receivership without congressional action – well within his powers as conservator of the enterprises. He is also smart, thoughtful and open to fact-based arguments, with friends that span the political spectrum.

Having strong opinions in the private sector or in academia isn’t the same as having your hand on the throttle that controls once sixth of the U.S. economy. Driving up mortgage interest rates in advance of a highly probable 2020 recession makes a strong case against hiking up guarantee fees at Fannie and Freddie. Eliminating the 30-year fixed rate mortgage would also force consumers into adjustable rate mortgages during a period of inevitably rising rates, potentially causing another major foreclosure crisis. No one wants that on their watch.

One thing we do know for certain is that NHC and our members will work with whomever is confirmed to run FHFA, and we will continue to forcefully and respectfully advocate for the American Home, as we have done since 1931.

Are you an NHC member? Now is the perfect time to join or renew. Individual memberships start at only $500 for single proprietors, $1,000 for non-profits and $2,500 for for-profit companies. Higher levels of support in our Leadership Circle are also available for those who are interested in leading panels and seminars at our many convenings or participating in special Leadership Circle activities we are planning for next year.

As an NHC member, you will also maintain access to this weekly Member Brief, which will only be emailed to members beginning in January. We look forward to staying in touch!
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux
Freddie Mac pilot’s new manufactured home loans

Freddie Mac has announced CHOICEHome, a two-year pilot that will provide up to 97 percent loan-to-value conventional financing for certain manufactured homes, including those that have permanent foundations, energy efficient features and pitched roofs. When homes meet the program’s guidelines, Freddie Mac will also allow the use of site-built homes as comparables for an appraisal. 
Two new studies show impact of racial bias on housing

The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and Gallup have released a new report, “ The Devaluation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods: The Case of Residential Property,” finds that owner-occupied homes in majority-black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses, and that these differences are not fully explained by variations in home and neighborhood quality. On Dec. 5, Brookings hosted an event on the report. You can listen to the audio recording here. Another study from the University of California at Berkeley, Consumer-Lending Discrimination in the Era of FinTech, finds that Latino and African-American borrowers are charged 6-9 basis points higher interest rates, and pay $250-$500M per year in extra mortgage interest.
Healthcare coverage can reduce late rent payments

An innovative study described in CityLab suggests that Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act can keep people from losing their homes. The study shows that participants at the poverty level who were able to acquire health insurance under Obamacare’s subsidized exchanges were 25 percent less likely to miss paying their rent or mortgage on time than similar households in states that did not expand coverage.
Lessons learned from healthy affordable housing

A new report from Urban Land Institute, “ Healthy Housing for All: How Affordable Housing is Leading the Way,” explores how innovations in healthy affordable housing can be replicated and expanded to impact the broader housing marketplace. Features such as community gardens, fitness amenities, active staircases and smoke-free living all can pay dividends for residents in affordable, mixed-income and market rate properties.
Innovation in housing affordability and technology

An event co-hosted by Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation and Fannie Mae, InnovateHousing, recently explored ways that the tech sector can contribute to solutions for housing affordability challenges. Innovations in construction, density, technology and finance were all discussed, following a keynote on Google’s vision for user-centered design to increase housing affordability and access to technology.
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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