Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
April 3, 2019
President's Message I By David M. Dworkin
Dear Friend,

April is Fair Housing Month, so there is no better time to discuss the pernicious practice of redlining, which segregated neighborhoods by their racial composition. Maps were literally colored blue to represent 100 percent white residency and red to indicate “hazardous” levels of risk due to the presence of black residents. The history of redlining is best demonstrated in a map prepared by the United States Home Owner Loan Corporation (HOLC), one of the Roosevelt administration’s most successful programs designed to refinance Americans into sustainable mortgages. Millions of white Americans took advantage of the program and most saved their homes from foreclosure as a result. Black Americans who needed the program lost their homes, along with those white homeowners who lived in integrated neighborhoods .
To avoid being labeled a “declining” neighborhood, one neighborhood in Detroit, just three miles from where I grew up, built an actual wall to separate black and white residents. It’s easy for some to dismiss these stories as ancient history, but just last week HUD filed charges against Facebook alleging that the internet advertising platform “unlawfully discriminates based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex, and disability by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook’s platforms and across the internet.” HUD has charged that Facebook uses its enormous database of user data to control who sees housing-related ads in their Facebook “feed.” Facebook offered advertisers the ability to choose or exclude attributes like “foreigners,” “Puerto Rico Islanders,” or people interested in “accessibility,” “Hijab Fashion,” or “Hispanic Culture.”

That’s not all. Facebook also offers advertisers the ability to target customers using a tool called “Lookalike Audiences.” Even more shocking, Facebook refused to support advertising to diverse audiences, much like the HOLC of the 1930’s refused to help white homeowners who lived in integrated neighborhoods. “Even if an advertiser tries to target an audience that broadly spans protected class groups, [Facebook’s] ad delivery system will not show the ad to a diverse audience if the system considers users with particular characteristics most likely to engage with the ad,” according to HUD. You can read HUD’s complete charges against Facebook here.

As we discussed in last week’s note, black homeowners suffered more than any other racial group during the housing crisis. While the foreclosure crisis hit black homeowners hardest, it was not because they became homeowners using irresponsible mortgages as the bubble inflated. The fact is that the largest increase in black homeownership occurred between 1994 and 2001, when lenders across the country, encouraged by government sponsored investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, sought out African-American first-time home buyers in record numbers. These were overwhelming responsible, well-documented, long-term fixed rate loans that performed well. As housing values rose, the equity wealth these loans created became a tempting target for cash-out refinancing. Existing black homeowners were targeted for equity-stripping loans that appeared to cost little but were both expensive and risky. We are just beginning to fully understand the impact this will have on an entire generation of mortgage-ready African-American renters deciding whether or not to become homeowners.

Once we understand the cause, we can address even harder issues like how we prevent it in the future, and how we convince the many currently mortgage ready black renters to trust the system again. To join us in this important work, please contact  Tristan Bréaux to sign up for the Black Homeownership Working Group. I also hope you’ll join me at  Solutions for Housing Communications for a panel discussion with  Antoine Thompson of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, Cat Goughnour of Prosperity Now and  Lisa Rice with the National Fair Housing Alliance on communicating about the black homeownership decline in America.

David M. Dworkin
President and CEO
National Housing Conference
News from Washington I By Tristan Bréaux and
Quinn Mulholland
Trump issues memorandum calling for housing finance reform

Last week, following two days of Senate hearings on GSE reform, President Trump issued a memorandum instructing the Treasury Department and HUD to come up with a plan to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship. Other goals for GSE reform the memorandum outlines include facilitating competition, establishing regulations to govern the GSEs and ensuring the federal government is compensated for “any explicit or implicit support it provides to the GSEs or the secondary housing finance market.” In a statement, NHC President and CEO David Dworkin remarked, “It is essential that we get this important reform right for all Americans, because far too many of our friends, family and neighbors can’t afford their rent or can’t find a home they can afford to buy.” Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown cautioned in his statement that “this White House has a history of saying the right things and then taking actions that hurt workers and families.”
Waters introduces bill to end homelessness

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters introduced the Ending Homelessness Act of 2019 last week. The bill would appropriate $13.27 billion over five years to federal programs and initiatives dedicated to addressing the homelessness crisis, including grants for new permanent housing units, new Special Purpose Section 8 vouchers, and additional funding for the National Housing Trust Fund. The bill was approved by the House Financial Services Committee last Thursday, and now will have to be approved by the House as a whole. NHC supports this bill and has played an active role in its creation and introduction.
Senate fails to advance disaster relief bill

A bill that would provide $13.5 billion in aid to help with recovery from flooding in the Midwest and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico stalled on Monday as competing Democratic and Republican versions were shot down. The House previously passed a similar disaster relief bill in January that was tied to reopening the government. The Senate bill was held up over a partisan fight over how much funding Puerto Rico should get. This fight came against the backdrop of a recent Government Accountability Office report that the federal government has been slow to allocate block grants to disaster-stricken areas and an announcement by HUD’s inspector general that the office will review whether the White House interfered with disaster aid for Puerto Rico.
Blog Post: What affordable housing means to me
by Andrea Nesby

Many industry staff can benefit from a brainstorming session answering and discussing what affordable housing means personally. That’s precisely what happened when we had an ad-hoc staff meeting. “What does affordable housing mean to you?” is what we contemplated and answered. It was a great brainstorming exercise to sit back and reflect on how we personally view affordable housing. Throughout my career, I have focused so much on what affordable housing means to others, until then, I had not sat back to reflect on what it means to me. I previously worked for a Maryland nonprofit, the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH), where I helped coordinate a project to photograph MCCH housing residents holding a sketch of a home with one word written inside to describe what it meant to have an affordable place to call home. Some of them wrote joy, happiness , safety , hope and stability . This memory is still vivid and inspiring as I think back.

But the roles were now reversed at this brainstorming session; it was my turn to answer and share my perspective.

House Financial Services Committee holds two hearings on housing

Yesterday, the House Financial Services Committee held two hearings on the subject of housing: one on the Fair Housing Act and one on the affordable housing crisis in rural America. Chairwoman Maxine Waters remarked at the hearing on the Fair Housing Act, “Here we are 51 years after the Fair Housing Act became law, and housing discrimination remains a widespread problem in this country.” Additionally, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development will hold a hearing today on HUD’s FY 2020 budget request.
NLIHC campaign releases poll on housing affordability

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Opportunity Starts at Home campaign released the results of a national poll last week that revealed that 85 percent of Americans believe housing affordability should be a national priority. The poll also showed that eight in ten think the president and Congress should take major action to make housing more affordable to low-income people. In an accompanying Buzzfeed op-ed, Opportunity Starts at Home National Director Mike Koprowski wrote, “People from all walks of life are increasingly concerned about the lack of housing they can afford; they know it most negatively impacts low-income people; they see how it spills over into other areas of life; and they are looking for an energetic response from the federal government.”
NHC in the News
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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